Do you live in the past, present or future? Wendy L Macdonald helps us think about the past, present and future. She points out how important it is to pay attention to what is going on in the present.
Do You Live in the Past, Present or Future?
Do you live in the future, the past, or the present? I found out which one I tend to dwell in, and it wasn’t good news.
Just as one can’t do everything and expect anything to turn out well, we can’t live in the past or the future and expect the present to take care of itself either. We need to focus on now or it will become the history we regret.
Psalm 118:24 NIV says:
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 doesn’t say:
Tomorrow is day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
And it also doesn’t say:
Yesterday is the day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.
We don’t inhabit in the past or the future. We exist NOW.
The Last Haircut
As the main barber in our family, I’ve cut my husband’s hair and both my sons’ hair for decades. I’m not a trained or gifted hairdresser, but I have the gift of caring. I care how the haircuts turn out. Once those clippers are in my hands, I’m all business and art. And the following day, I tend to show up like a scissor wielding shadow to snip off any unwieldly hairs that straggle and catch my attention.
Attention: A life well-lived requires our complete attention.
Oh my, how I often fall short of this; allow me to show you an example.
I hold the clippers and snip this way and that. I trim the hair on the sides of my son’s handsome head. I think back to the time I accidentally snipped a bit of his ear, and a tiny drop of blood teared out onto the blade of the scissors. His, at the time, ten-year-old-self barely winced or whimpered. He’d been born brave and lived as though his name had been chosen by God, not by two flawed parents.
I noticed the ends of his sun-bleached hair, and I remembered when his toddler-self was blonder than now. When I was darker and less gray than today. I noticed his tidy goatee and then I dashed back into the past, into my time machine, and I watched him ride a skim board at the beach near our old home. His muscular body is bronze like the older boys around him, and his hair is almost white from the summer’s sun.
A clump of fair hair falls to the brown tile floor, bringing me back to the present.
I remove the comb from the clippers and tidy up the edge of his neckline as I ask him, “Is this short enough?”
“Go shorter,” he says. “I tend to wait too long between haircuts, I might as well start off as short as possible.”
I cut more. Hair falls onto his broad shoulders. His shoulders, now those of a young man.
I dart back into the past, ten years ago, to a time when he split firewood and then hauled it, clump, clump, clump, up the back steps. He paused and removed his shoes and then he wobbled under the load as he carried the wood into the family room and laid it like an offering on the hearth.
Earlier we’d all curled up under our favorite lap-quilts as I read another chapter (or a begged second or third one) of the Lord of the Rings. My mind flashed forward to the final page of the final chapter of the final book we’d journeyed through together as a close-knit homeschool family. I bit my lip between phrases and willed my eyes not to blur. But like time, tears forged ahead, unstoppable as we came to the end of an era. I peeked and saw three other sets of eyes, as wet as mine, as I read the final words.
The hair-clippers snag on a thick batch of hair, and I’m whisked back to the present. “Oops,” I say, startled.
“Is there a bald patch?” My son asks.
“No. It’s okay. Just scared myself.”
But it wasn’t okay. I found out later that while I cut his hair and I was anywhere but there, anywhere but in the present, he wondered why I hadn’t mentioned it was the final phase of the final days before he moved out.
It had been the last haircut. And like Peter, I wept bitterly for denying the present.
Time Travel – Past, Present or Future?
I’ve discovered I have a habit of attempting to avoid pain by jumping into a time machine. It’s my version of Superman’s telephone booth. I enter, frightened of the present, and I exit wearing a cape from the past. It distracts me from today’s intensity. The problem is—it doesn’t solve anything—it compounds the pain I’ll eventually have to face. I’ve become so good at it, I don’t even realize I’m doing it until it’s—too late.
The cape I need to don is the covering of Christ. He will keep calm the one who keeps her mind on Him. Not the one who skips over her fears to focus on some other time zone. Not the one who avoids her present by thinking of the past. I can face today squarely at the feet of Him Who knows and holds it all in His hands.
I apologize to the Keeper of Time, and I apologize to the son of mine. He sees the tears I decide not to hide, for I know the redness would betray me anyways.
He offers me a hug. Grace. And in that moment I say yes, and I’m more present than I’ve been since the day he was born.
My dear friends. Gift yourself, gift others with your attention to the present. You won’t regret it. I promise.
Wendy L. Macdonald
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Images courtesy of:
Mom, son and ice-cream – vilandrra
Mom and baby – Public domain
Retro Haircut – Clker Free Vector Images
Graduation – violey