Last week, I drove past a bumper sticker that moved me. Simple and unapologetic, it invited me to “Be Here Now.” Above this brilliant reminder was a picture of a cell phone in a circle, with a red line slashed diagonally down the middle. Every fiber of my being gave a collective shout of agreement. As if in support of this fellow human’s desire, I looked at my husband next to me and with plaintive eyebrows sighed, “This is truth.”
There was a time when I took a walk without wondering if someone in the world of Facebook had acknowledged the wit of my status update. A world where I didn’t fact-check a dinner conversation every time I couldn’t remember the name of a book title or an actress in a movie I watched five years ago. My mealtime’s truest motivation was to simply enjoy my delicious sandwich, and I rarely halted to photograph this sandwich in the best light.
Why is this beautiful truth so difficult for me to embrace in my everyday moments?
A 16th century French spiritual director named Jean-Pierre de Caussade dedicated a lecture series warning against the danger of shutting out the present. De Caussade never had the opportunity to be tempted to distraction with his iPhone. But this man, I assure you, would have fist bumped the person who heralded such a statement on their vehicle. Okay, maybe he would give a simple head nod, but it is rather humorous to imagine a Jesuit priest fist-bumping.
He challenged with confidence that each present moment of our lives is sacred and God-infused, sacramentally able to be offered up with purpose. I’ve heard more statements then I can count about God’s glory in the minutiae of our lives, but this guy is saying a lot more then: “Let your dishwashing and sandwich eating be done with divine intention.” He’s saying that there isn’t much you can do to divorce your everyday happenings from the work of God, so eat that sandwich and go ahead and enjoy it. Be present to the moment, and the Creator of that moment, in every facet of your experience. All we need to do is become a “floating balloon,” surrendering to a wind that requires nothing of us.
I sometimes cheapen these moments with my expectation. I think about where I will be in the future, what I need to accomplish in order to maximize my day’s potential, I dwell on the regrets I have from the last few years — anything to escape the now. My soul gets flustered, and often attempts to shut me up and bring me into communion with a God whose bigness baffles and scares me.
The more time I spend with people who are dying, the more life-like their worlds become to me, and the less my own experience seems to master this concept. It is amazing how precious moments become when they are limited, how delicious a milkshake is when all that is required is to note its deliciousness. If your present moment has you drinking one right now, you would do well to marvel in this experience.
So today, perched at my window seat and enveloped with miles of pillowed sky, I opened up my book with a decided effort to engage my soul. I use the word “effort” deliberately, because for all my vain attempting, I read de Caussade’s words and realized instantly I was missing the point.
“God forever available, forever being received. Not in pomp or glory or radiance, but in infirmity, foolishness, nothingness.”
I wondered if I believed this statement. The pockets of dirt trapped around my tray table crevices then distracted my feeble mind. I literally went from thinking about the wonder and mystery of God’s availability for me at that moment, to the wonder of how often they clean commercial airplanes.
Then I attempted to offer this flip-flopping soul of mine to an inviting God who knows what a difficult task this can be.
Image credits: thelifedivine