Back to the Present
We have just returned from a long absence from our village life. For three weeks we were attending a conference in Machakos, Kenya, focused on learning more about Africa in general, and also Africa Inland Mission (who we are currently partnered with). We then took two weeks of vacation, going on a safari, shopping and eating in Nairobi, and then relaxing at a resort back on Nosy Be. We had a great time, learned something, had a birthday or two, and had a chance to process our first six months and refocus for our return.
As all of the fun was being had, there was one thought that kept creeping back into my brain… “What is the weather going to be like when we return?” The locals (including Rosina) have consistently reminded us that Nosy Be gets quite hot from November to March. As it has already been “quite hot” since we have been here, I had slowly developed an unvoiced paranoia about what the weather-related future held. And now, we are back… and it’s hot. And humid. Think Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam” hot. Actually, it hasn’t quite reached Austin-in-August hot, but we also no longer have an air-conditioned refuge to retreat into.
As I was lying in our hammock on the front porch one evening, fanning myself with one of Keely’s “fancy fans,” I started thinking about Christmas, and how we will be going to a villa on the other side of the island where there is a better breeze. And then in April I am going back to the states to attend my sister’s wedding, and by the time I come back it will have cooled off enough to sleep comfortably again. And maybe in January we can take a weekend away to a nice resort on the other side of the island that has A.C. And maybe in February as well. These “future” thoughts kept popping into my brain, one after the other, and they gave me hope. “When this happens, then everything will be O.K.” Or, “If I can just make it to this, then I’ll be back on track.”
However, as luck would have it (or is it Providence?), I had also started re-reading “The Screwtape Letters,” by C.S. Lewis. Our team is going through a study on prayer and spiritual warfare, and I wanted to read this book again because it has so much to offer on the daily battles that we face. In the book, a demon is writing to another demon, instructing him on how to best disrupt the life of the man to whom the second demon has been assigned to “win.” See if this resonates with you as much as it did me:
Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human… to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity . . . It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity… It follows then, in general, and other things being equal, that it is better for your patient to be filled with anxiety or hope (it doesn’t much matter which)… than for him to be living in the present.
I returned to the place God has placed me, but I was constantly looking towards some imaginary “future,” where I wouldn’t be hot, where I would finally be happy, fulfilled, at peace, etc. Meanwhile, I have neglected to see the opportunities that each day presents, to be with my wife and kids, to engage my neighbors and teammates, to “sit at the feet of Jesus,” like Mary did while here sister Martha was “busy preparing.” I write this because I feel as though it is so easy for all of us to fail to live in the present, no matter where we are. And yet, this is what we are called to do, to receive our daily bread and to live out our faith one day at a time.
Humans have a remarkable ability to adapt, and I am already adjusting to the climate here. It is not as hot as it was a few days ago, and I am sleeping better each night. Much like the birds and the flowers, God knows what we need, and he provides. It is necessary for us to work, to plan, to be productive, but we also need to remind ourselves daily to stop and be present, to live in the opportunities God has given us today.