The Present Eternity

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For the first time in weeks, I woke to the sun in my curtains, and it felt like the break of spring. It may be the Sunshine State, but chill and rain have pushed their way into paradise. As brief as a Florida winter can be, there comes a time when the wet and the gray give way to the sun, and it feels like death working backwards, even though the next wave of rain will come again soon.

The sky is the perfect pale blue. The air is just cool enough to wear a light sweater. Even a few of my neighbor’s pink azaleas had the audacity to bloom.

Today, I’m not holed up in an office, or buried under blankets avoiding the rain, or turning future preoccupations over and over in my mind like a troubling foreign object I found in my yard. Today, I simply take the time for being and dip my fingers in the stream of eternity.

These days I catch myself too often living in the future, for good reasons at least. I can’t wash my hands without catching the flash of a diamond that promises how everything will soon turn upside down. When I’m not trying to work or sleep, my mind tries to skip forward in time. After all, there’s wedding food to taste, guest lists to tweak, shoes to search for. From the growing task lists to help me pull off this party, to packing boxes before moving and making a new family, to choosing napkin colors and cake flavors and what kind of vacuum to put on my registry, everything seems to exist in a sort of rapidly approaching someday that becomes more real with every sunrise.

It’s a someday that’s beautiful and terrifying at once. It’s a someday wrapped in promises I sometimes question my ability to live out.

Isn’t this how it all is though? Is there ever a moment when my time-bound body and soul can step back and see where the frozen past and vaporous future melt together into right now?

In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis imagines how this bent obsession with time becomes a devil’s tool of distraction: “The humans live in time, but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

The Present is barely here before it becomes Past. By the time you finish reading this next sentence, a new one will be present. For most of us, if we think about it long enough, we can imagine God standing outside the stream of time, watching over the whole of it, the slow trickling bits and the days that rush by like rapids over rocks. We can mentally assent that he is here, even in this moment, and there, in the past, and further downstream, in all the future moments to come.

And there I am, caught in the flow, too worried about what’s around the bend to appreciate the way right now is cradling me. And isn’t this just the opposite of what God wants for us? “We want a whole race perpetually in the pursuit of the rainbow’s end,” says Screwtape, “never honest, never kind, nor happy now . . .”

So it seems nigh impossible to “live in the present,” as so many motivational posters would proclaim, when so much of it is fleeting, flowing, disappearing in the past and hurtling toward an unseen future.

But today, for now, I see the break in the clouds, and on this short mid-winter day, I take advantage of the sun and the free time. Instead of attending to the task list, the errands, the worries, or the self-doubts, I’ll take a cup of coffee and a book and some ink on paper. For now, this is my Sabbath. I redeem the time and hope to carve out something holy.

Jen was born and raised in central Florida, but now lives in the strange land of southern New England. Her words have appeared in TS Poetry’s Every Day Poems, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she recently released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms. Some of her favorite things include used bookstores, good coffee, messing about in the kitchen, and local adventures with her husband Chris.


8 Comments

  1. Heidi Johnston

    I love this Jen! I have a definite tendency to rush ahead of myself, anticipating the fulfilment of each new plan. The problem is that by the time I get there I am already craning my neck to see round the next bend in the road. Thanks for this timely reminder to not only appreciate the here and now but to revel in the presence of God in this moment.

  2. Sofia

    Thanks, Jen. I recently received news that makes me want to speed up the hands of the clock, to look ahead and know whether I should anticipate or dread what is coming. And into this, God has reminded me to rejoice and be thankful for what I know now. Your post comes today as a further confirmation of that reminder.

  3. Kristen P.

    Jen –
    This so resonates with me. I’ve been struggling to live in both the present and toward eternity, preferring to worry about what the future might hold as lots of uncertainty cuts across my life. Thank you for the reminder of Sabbath, and rest, and presence in the days we have been given.

  4. BONNIE BUCKINGHAM

    This is beautiful. You have captured Wendell Berry’s two words: Practice resurrection.
    Much like his Sabbath poems. So happy for you too!

  5. Jen Rose

    @

    Thanks everyone. It’s funny… I wrote the first draft of this a couple months ago, and seeing it posted today re-reminded me of the importance of rest and living in the now and not worrying about the future. Wow, so much harder than it sounds! (though for the record, I found my shoes and finished my guest list! :))

    And Bonnie, I love that. Practice resurrection. I need to read more Wendell Berry.

  6. Sarah

    Whew. I needed to hear this this morning….I have felt scattered and harried for the last many days. I need to pause and carve out something holy today. Funny that I had already told the kids that today was going to be an in-service day (we homeschool)…and that the teacher needed a day of planning and thinking and sanity 😉 . I think part of that is simply catching my breath.

    This was a good nudge to follow through with that plan! Thank you!

  7. Jennifer K.

    This is something I need to remember…everyday. So often I find myself gazing at a calendar in anticipation of a “red-letter day” – circled and starred – a trip, a hike, a concert, a gathering. I forget that God can meet me where I am…sitting in my kitchen surrounded by dirty dishes and unpaid bills. And that I may find joy in that simple lonely setting. Thanks for reminding me of the beauty of this.

  8. Peter B

    Wow, this is so close to eternity that I can feel it tugging me through the raging stream.

    If that even makes sense…

    Thank you.

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