To put it mildly, I was giving myself a tall order. And as you can probably imagine...I never really figured out how to do it. It seemed the more I focused on the importance of the moment...the more I missed the actual moment. I mean I would gear myself up for some event...tell myself over and over that I had to pay attention...I had to stay focused and be in the moment...wherever I was. Somehow I had to appreciate the gift of this time with this person or these people. But inevitably, no matter how hard I tried to remain cognizant of the moment, I'd find myself after the event, thinking about how fast the time went...and how it didn't seem quite memorable enough...or how I wasn't really as "there" as I needed to be. And I would walk away feeling like there went another missed opportunity...a missed moment.
The whole thing kind of reminds me of that scene in Spaceballs where they wind up watching the movie Spaceballs in the movie and eventually (after fast forwarding) catch up to where they currently are in the movie.
Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?
Colonel Sandurz: You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now is happening now.
Dark Helmet: What happened to then?
Colonel Sandurz: We passed then.
Dark Helmet: When?
Colonel Sandurz: Just now. We're at now now.
Dark Helmet: Go back to then.
Colonel Sandurz: When?
Dark Helmet: Now!
Colonel Sandurz: Now?
Dark Helmet: Now!
Colonel Sandurz: I can't.
Dark Helmet: Why?
Colonel Sandurz: We missed it.
Dark Helmet: When?
Colonel Sandurz: Just now.
Dark Helmet: When will then be now?
Colonel Sandurz: Soon.
I really started doubting whether it was even possible to really be present in the moment on a consistent basis. I mean certainly there are times in our life when something gets etched in our minds....when something makes such an impression that we will never forget it...and usually those are moments when we were truly IN the moment (for better or worse) and we weren't really conscious of anything else in the world. But those times are rare and natural. They can't be contrived. No, it seems to me that normally we are moving through time so quickly that all we can do is look back.
But then the other day I think God rescued me from this misguided "wisdom." You see, it hit me that while I can't seem to remain self-consciously present in each moment...I can do some good...and I can be present for someone else. And there it was. I had been so preoccupied with what I thought the moment (or my being in the moment) should be for me...that I lost sight of one of the most important things in life...and more importantly in Love: we are not here for ourselves, but for God...and for others.
As I started working through this new idea...tossing it around in my head...I realized how very doable it is. While it may be true that I can't remain super aware of the meaning and significance of each moment while I am in it...and therefore am not really appreciating and valuing each moment as if it was my last...I can think about what the person or people I am with at each moment need...and then I can do what I can to meet that need.
Maybe sometimes this means lending a hand to help them accomplish some task...or at other times it may mean offering an encouraging word or sharing some piece of my own experience to help them make sense of something that is happening in their lives. But often...and maybe most of the time...it probably just means listening...validating who they are...letting them see and feel that they are worthy of attention...that their story and experience matters. Whatever form it may take...it means loving the people who are with you in each moment.
Sure sometimes this will mean sacrifice...it will mean humbling yourself...maybe forgoing your own story or experience. It may mean giving up some of your own time and the plans you had for it. It may mean pushing your body a little harder...skipping that extra sleep you thought you needed or settling for a less splendid meal. In short it may mean dying to self.
And so maybe I didn't have it all wrong. Maybe the secret to life still is to "live like you were dying"...only there's a bit more to it. The dying we do...the self that we crucify...is not for our own sake...but rather for the sake of others. We are to seize the day...but not for ourselves...we are to seize it for others. I believe God does want us to be in each moment (after all life IS a precious gift)...but He wants us to be in each moment so that we can make it better for others....not for ourselves. In short, I guess I almost had it right. We ARE suppose to live like we are dying....but we are suppose to live like we are dying for others!
Thank you Father for opening my eyes...for freeing me from the frustration of my imperfect reasoning...and for showing me continually how to live. Help me to bring Your love into each moment...and help me to make each moment better for those around me...no matter the cost.