Monday, August 31, 2015

In The Moment

       It is good to live in the moment. We're not dwelling on the past, we're not wishing life away by focusing on the future--we are experiencing the present. But what if the present isn't so good? What if we are suffering?

       I think we grow up learning from society around us that suffering is something that "shouldn't be." Mistakes are not supposed to happen--on the road, at work, in the McDonald's drive-thru or at the hospital--and if they do...then sue. Three of my friends were told by their doctors to terminate their pregnancies because of bleeding and an inability to find a fetal heartbeat. All three women said no, and there are now three healthy boys running around our town. I am convinced that the doctors felt that they had to recommend termination, for if they had not and the woman had complications, they could have been sued. Sadly, mistakes happen.

       I think it's possible that a mistake was made on our farm and that may be why Mary Pat has deformities and developmental disabilities. I will never confront anyone about it. There is no real proof. But if it is true, then it caused suffering. I have written about Mary Pat; she is such a blessing. She always knows more people in the local supermarket than I do. It's like being with a celebrity. Children run up to her as I walk into school and hug her, or give her a high-five. Through our suffering, through her life, many people have been blessed in ways that could not have happened without Mary Pat's life.

       Living in the moment is hard at times, but it can also be blissful. Sitting on the beach with the waves crashing and soft breeze blowing. Hitting that run of moguls and the adrenaline surge of speed and skis pounding hard. Jumping a horse over a big fence. Embracing a loved one. A first kiss.

       But there are also illusions of a moment, aren't there? They can lead us to errors in judgement, to impulsive acts. The things that keep us from making these errors are formed in us well before that moment, in our interior lives, in our moral formation. I am told that developing virtues combats these errors in judgement. All the education in the world may not keep someone from committing a crime or a huge mistake, but virtue might.

       I came across a beautiful and tragic quote the other day:

       "Let Herodius now groan, she who is guilty of the impious murder,
        for it was neither love of God's law, nor life eternal that she loved,
        but the illusions of a moment."


       No. It is a reading from the Byzantine liturgy regarding the death of John the Baptist. Herod kind of liked John, even though he didn't mince words about Herod's sinful lifestyle. Herod's wife, however, despised John the Baptist and finally devised a way to force Herod to kill him. Her daughter Salome (Herod's niece) danced such a beautiful dance one night that Herod told her to ask him for anything and he'd give it to her. Her mother whispered to her to ask for John the Baptist's head, and Herod, beside himself with conflict, gave in. Herodius got her revenge.

       Revenge sometimes feels good in the moment. So do big mistakes--like infidelity, sin, porn, getting drunk when we shouldn't. Later, we may regret it terribly. At the moment it felt and seemed good!

       Moments are indeed precious. Illusions of a moment assert that the moment is more important than wisdom and judgement, than right and good, than even the One who created moments.

       I believe that God wants the best for us. I want to be grateful for my moments, even in the suffering ones. Christ suffered. We learn that to follow him means taking up our cross. That does not mean a cross of gold and happily ever after fairy-tale living. There will hopefully be some great moments, but there is no promise that life will be without pain. Ann Voskamp wrote an inspired book about her life, about the suffering of her family and how all was turned around for her when she focused on gratitude.One Thousand Gifts  is a book which changes lives. I hope you'll read it.

       And I hope you'll live solidly and gratefully in the moment, that you'll be wise and perhaps take some more moments before deciding on a course that you might later regret. Sacrificing that illusory moment might be the most fully in-the-moment thing we ever do.

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