I have an acute sense of what is happening in the present – which is both a strength and a weakness. It is a strength in that you value people, experiences, and it deepens your gratitude. It is a weakness because it tends to make you dislike change and become content in times when there needs to be growth.
The strengths are worth the pursuit of such a focus as long as you are aware of the weaknesses and work to avoid them. While we ought not be stuck in the present without regard for the future there is plenty of biblical evidence that we are to be “present-minded” people.
Perhaps the most clear Scripture on this topic is in Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”. We count our years, but God admonishes us to count our days.
This is such a powerful truth that it is life-changing in the way we see our time and life. So this is very real to me. It is not a “gift” or something that I sought to have in my personality.
It was cultivated by several things. One of them was experiencing a number of deaths of people that were close to me by the time I was sixteen years old. That will surely wake you up to the preciousness of time and relationships. The other way I learned this was from my mother.
I remember the day very clearly. It was a fall afternoon and I was in the eighth grade at Roy Stone Jr. High School. I had only been home for about an hour and Mom came and told me that she needed to talk to me. I could tell the subject was serious and I thought that I was in trouble for something.
Interestingly we went to my sister’s bedroom and sat on her bed and she began to talk – and it changed my life. She said, “Rick, I want you to know that the next five years are going to be the best years of your life. You are going to have a lot of fun and learn some important things. You don’t understand it right now, but you will look back and treasure these times in your life. If you want to make the most of them you need to enjoy every day and make the most of everything you do every day”.
She sat right beside me and looked directly and sincerely into my eyes as she spoke. I didn’t know how to respond (I was glad I wasn’t in trouble!), but I knew that she had just given me some precious truths directly from her heart. I remember that conversation very clearly and will to the day I die.
I weighed her words, took her seriously and did exactly what she counseled me to do. Life began to slow down a bit for me and I stopped looking to the next event while missing what was going on at that moment.
Mom did a lot of great things for me and taught me some valuable lessons, but none greater than this. To value the present. It impacted me not only because of the love she had to talk to me about such an important subject, but also the wisdom she gave to me that shaped my life.
I don’t want to look back on my life one day and feel that I have wasted opportunities or missed sweet experiences. One day I’m going to write more on this subject because I think it is one of the keys to joy and deepening your love for people. But for now I just wanted to honor my mother for teaching me such a simple, but profound truth.
A pastor wrote the following poem that expresses in better terms what I am trying to say. I have lived the events of this poem in my life. I am so grateful to Mom for helping to prepare me to value the present, for if we fail to do so, one day we will wish we had.
He Got Married Last Week
(It was the week after my son had been married. It was easy to cry. It was difficult to go into his room. It was also difficult NOT to go into his room. Sitting at his desk, I wrote this poem as I remembered…and remembered…and remembered).
At last! His room is neat and clean;
No clothes are on the floor.
The pennant’s gone from off the wall;
No marks are on the door.
The messy bed is finally made;
The carpet’s clean now, too.
For once, the closet door is closed;
No underwear’s in view.
Bath water, now, is seldom cold;
I never have to wait.
No dirty ring’s around the tub;
The towels are clean and straight.
I’m never wakened by the sounds
Of bouncing basketballs;
They never fray my lonesome nerves,
By hitting on the walls.
No fevered brow now mars my rest,
Or midnight sickly groan.
No fighting for the one sport page;
No, “Dad, I need a loan.”
No baseball shatters windowpanes;
No base paths mar the grass;
The car top never gets a dent
From a wayward forward pass.
No heel prints run along the wall;
No, “Dad, I need the car.”
No more, “‘Cause he is not in yet,”
Do I leave the door ajar.
The water pitcher’s always full;
The bathroom floor’s not wet;
And when I want a piece of bread,
The heel’s not all I get.
Methinks the floor is lonesome, though—
It never has been bare.
The chairs are homesick now, it seems,
For dirty underwear.
The towels aren’t happy being straight;
The bathtub wants some rings.
The floor is sorely saddened by
The silence cleanness brings.
The bed is lonesome for the guy
Who kept it such a mess,
‘Cause when it’s smooth and all dressed up,
It cannot seem to rest.
I’m gettin’ mighty nervous too,
Just waitin’ for the noise
Of basketballs thrown ‘gainst the house
By him and all the boys.
And how about his Dad?
(The guy he used to fleece)
I’ve learned a truth I’ve never known—
The heel’s my fav’rite piece.