As a little boy I would think in terms of the future, often to the exclusion of the present. Of course, children and young people think they have forever to live… No different than my friends, I was always looking forward to something that was days or weeks away. Saying things like; “I can’t wait until Christmas,” or “until my birthday,” and the universal, “I can’t wait until school is out!”
I always wanted to move my life along to the next big event. My mother even claims that I was the same way with the sports I played growing up. I preferred football during baseball season and basketball during football season. I wanted any other season than the one we were in.
Whenever I would lament the present for reasons of fear or inconvenience, or just wanting to move on and to fast-forward my life to some time off in the future, my father would say, “Son, listen to me; never wish your life away, even a small part it.” I did not really understand his point until I grew older.
Similarly, I made the comment to my father that someone I knew was a bad person, and unless they changed their ways, according to the pastor of a church I had visited recently, they would go into eternal damnation. I have since forgotten the infraction the person in question was guilty of, or even who the person was, but I remember my father saying to me, “Son, answer me this, is your life so bankrupt of the charity and love of God, that you must rob someone else of theirs?” I remember my embarrassment at sounding so arrogant, and even childish (not to be confused with child-like) in light of my father’s stinging reproach.
I try to remember these two phrases of my father, and use them to temper my thoughts and words, and to pray for a change of heart. Instead of “wishing my life away,” I acknowledge every day is filled with promise and opportunity to rejoice in life. I want to be sure and make the most of the present, rather then cash it in for a future I am not in control of, or even promised in this life. I don’t have the time to waste playing judge and jury over other people by condemning them, trying to frighten or bully them into the life I choose for them… or getting too caught up in who they are rather than who I am, too concerned with their life in Christ, to experience my own. Life is too precious.
If I live for the love of God each day, rejoice in the understanding that every day is a gift of the Lord, and every life is precious, then I will find each day sufficient of itself, prayerfully living each day to its fullest. If others can see God’s love for them through me, where and how they are, now, rather than the person I want them to be in the future, then that is the connection for me to make. Love my life, and value the life God has given others. Love fully, judge not.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19)”
The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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