Past. Present. Future. Three basic verb tenses we use every day, largely without consciously thinking of the one we’ve chosen. If speaking in a newly acquired language however, we are often arduously conscious each time we come to a verb that needs to be conjugated (the above three aren’t so bad, it’s the more complicated ones that produce headaches). Beyond verb tenses, though, there is, for us, a physical timeline and for many, living in the present is extremely challenging. As our present is fleeting, it’s common for human beings like us to veer to the left or to the right – getting stuck in what once was, or what wasn’t, or dreaming of what is to come or what probably will not come. This time problem comes up in school when the teacher says to the students, “Pay attention!” This command is essentially a request for the class to return to the ‘present’ from wherever they had wandered. The deal is, if we can’t physically get up and go, our imagination fires up and provides the transportation. Can you say, ‘daydreaming?’
We are sensory oriented people. How often has a scent, a photo, a song, a dated expression, a long-forgotten name, whisked us away from our present, stirring us to laughter or tears? How often has a room, a building, a situation or person evoked an unnamable feeling that instantly washes over us, removing us, once again, from the present to somewhere in our past?
And so, with that, we arrive once more at this journey we’re on. For Jesus’ disciples, the present was as flimsy as our own. Their shock and dismay, their misunderstanding, came largely from bumping into Jesus’ eternal now, his permanent present, his Alpha-Omega-ness but with no dash. He ‘is’ on the first day of Creation and on April 13, 2023 (I think there’s a big theological term for this, but this is already complicated enough, wouldn’t you agree?). So, when the disciples ask, just moments before Jesus’ Ascension, if it is ‘now’ he is going to restore the Kingdom, they are lovingly rebuked for their continuing obsession with time (Acts 1:8). In other words, they are to fix their hearts on him, such that they come to ‘speak’ Jesus fluently as their native tongue. Have you ever gotten wrapped up in a conversation or an activity, only to realize you’ve ‘lost all track of time’? This is Jesus’ invitation to us, to come away with him, learn the unforced rhythms of grace, ‘waste time with him,’ as one writer puts it, maybe hang out with him.
Jesus told his disciples, “I am with you, every single day, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20, VOICE. That’s it. Jesus is permanently present. Always available. Never stuck in one of our yesterdays. Never so otherwise focused as to be unaware of us in this precious moment. This is why this journey of discipleship is so delicious. It’s our invitation to discover, more and more, the riches of the love of the Father. Still waters. Lush pastures. Resting places. Always a feast. Always now. PD