Being fully present in eternity
The Westminster shorter catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I’ve heard it suggested that it could also be understood as “…to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.” John Piper often says that “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” Oh how true that is. It’s a beautiful symbiosis. When I think of the seasons of life in which I have thrived the most, it is when I was most satisfied in Him. But why can’t I sustain that!? Why do I have to work so hard to enjoy Him? Then there’s that last word…FOREVER. How do I enjoy Him FOREVER?!
FOREVER. That’s a concept that my finite mind can’t really comprehend. I was recently reading “Screw Tape Letters” by CS Lewis, and got to letter 15. Here’s an excerpt, slightly edited for readability:
Humans live in time but God destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things: 1) to eternity itself, 2) to that point of time which they call the Present. For the present is the only point in time that touches eternity. In the present moment, and in it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which God has of reality as a whole; in the present experience of eternity alone freedom and actuality are offered. He would therefore have them either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.
The reading goes on to talk about how it’s the job of the tempter to subtly distract the human from actually being in the present. Living in the present can be such a difficult discipline, but the value is…well…ETERNAL!
So I found myself contemplating the most common thieves of the present eternity:
- Past regret
- Past enjoyment
- Future enjoyment
- Future anxiety
Past Regret: I can’t change the past, but I can change the way it casts it’s shadow on the present eternity. Do I have regrets? They also manifest as guilt, shame, and triggers, by the way. The privilege I have is to RECEIVE forgiveness from Jesus, SEEK FORGIVENESS from those I’ve hurt, LEARN FROM THOSE SITUATIONS, and LEAVE THE REST IN JESUS’ HANDS.
Past Enjoyment: When I was 15 years old, I had the best summer of my life. I often am tempted to go back to that place in my mind, and re-live the joys of water skiing, working construction, drinking Dr. Pepper, and going on trips with my church youth group. This nostalgia can pull me out of the present eternity? Living in past “good times” can be just as destructive to the present eternity as the past failures. A good way to guard against nostalgia and remain fixed in the present eternity is to PRESENTLY GIVE GOD GLORY FOR THAT PAST. Rather than thinking/feeling, “boy that was great when….” Or “if only it could be like that again….” I can say to Jesus, “Thank you so much for that. That was wonderful. You’re so good to me!” And I can remain in the present while I do it.
Future enjoyment: I call this one “anticipation.” I am sure looking forward to soon having a daughter in law! If I’m not careful, though, I could end up being pulled out of the present as I anticipate the future. It’s every bit as sneaky as it’s brother in the past; nostalgia. I deal with Future Enjoyment the same way as his evil twin: I PRESENTLY say, “Thank you Jesus for the joy that awaits in having a daughter in law!” But I remain in the NOW while doing that, because I’m focused on HIM.
Future anxiety: if Past Enjoyment has an evil future twin, certainly Past Regret does as well. I deal with Future Anxiety by PRESENTLY interacting with Jesus, and trusting Him with what I can’t control. I do need to use my wand of choice responsibly and make choices that will not create more past regrets. But I also need to PRESENTLY CHOOSE to trust Him with my future, telling Him, “I’m going to do my best to rely on You to help me be obedient and faithful, and I believe that You’ll take care of me.”
Have I confused you? Inspired you? Bored you? Let me know, in whatever present moment that takes place just know this – when you involve Jesus in your present moment, you’re living in eternity.