The Gift of the Present

By Grace Pollock

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

-Jesus in Matthew 6:34

Live in the present moment. Haven’t we all heard this phrase so many times and wondered what it means and why others seem to think it’s so important?

Have you ever been laying in bed, just trying to fall asleep quickly, (so maybe for once you can get a full seven hours of rest), and all of a sudden your brain decides it’s the perfect time to mentally revisit a super awkward conversation you had with that cute guy or girl last month? And suddenly it seems like all of your most embarrassing memories come flooding in— even the ones that happened so long ago that you should definitely be over by now. It’s easy to get caught up in the past, whether it’s by overthinking those uncomfortable moments that no one remembers but you, or by wishing you could go back to your favorite times in life. Similarly it can be so easy to get lost in the future. I’m the type of person that loves to have a plan. I like to have a plan for the next week, or even the next year. If I had the time, I would probably try to plan out my next 60 years.

While planning ahead and enjoying old memories are both good things, it is easy to get too immersed in them, allowing ourselves to completely miss what is going on in the moment that we’re living.

This is where that phrase “living in the present moment” comes in. Living in the present moment benefits us by helping us enjoy the little things in life and overcoming regret about the past and anxiety about the future. But let me give you something else to think about: what does living in the present moment do for the people around me? How can this idea of living in the moment bring the love and mercy of Christ to the people I meet?

Last Fall, I had an experience that completely changed my perspective on this idea of living in the present moment. I was sitting in my dorm studying with a friend for an Anatomy and Physiology test and gosh— I was just so homesick. And in the middle of our study session, I just started talking to her about my family. I told her about the funny things that had happened last summer and mused about my siblings’ personalities. In retrospect, I realize that all of this could have been so incredibly boring for my friend! But instead of cutting me off after a few minutes and reminding me that we needed to study, she sat and listened to me ramble on and on. She asked questions and made me feel like she wanted to hear everything I had to say.

After she left that evening, I realized that she had put off her own studying just to be present with me. Her ability to put aside her future problems and be there for me in the moment that I needed her is exactly what living in the present moment looks like.

Don’t get me wrong— it is hard to live in the present moment. But Jesus works in such a powerful way through us when we do. When we aren’t constantly fretting about the past or speculating about the future, it is so much easier to be aware of the needs of those around us. Focusing on the present allows us the freedom to notice others’ stress, sadness, joy, and desires to be understood, and we are able to respond accordingly. Our response doesn’t have to be big or important. Sometimes all we need to give is a smile or a few moments of our time, but in those small acts of love, we are seeing the face of Christ in the people around us and allowing ourselves to be instruments of His love for them.

As Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” So I challenge you today, let us begin! Trust in the Lord, put aside your worries about the past and the future, and live life moment by moment. Far more important than the hour we could spend thinking about the past or future are the beautiful moments and opportunities to grow with those around us by relishing in the here and now.