Is it bad advice to live in the moment?

The problem with living in the moment is that it’s only part of it. Yes, it’s good to fully present in the now. But what happens if we don’t let the past give meaning to our present? What if we don’t think about future consequences today?

Check out my article in today’s paper.

I’m tired of being told to live in the moment. As a writer, I like people to be original and not tied to buzz words or stale clichés.

As a Christ-follower, I wonder if it’s faulty advice.

Other popular statements fall short.

“Don’t think; just feel.” Imagine a world where nobody thinks. Everyone does what seems right in their own eyes. Funny, it’s easy if you try.

“You deserve to be happy.” At what cost? Is your happiness worth someone else’s misery?

By contrast, to live in the moment sounds sensible.

It’s positive to be fully present. To pay undistracted attention to people and connect with them.

Living in the now means participating fully in your own life. That’s always good to do.

It also involves emptying your mind. You focus only on present sensations, like breathing. But wait, shouldn’t you intentionally set your mind on things above that are noble and pure?

Ursula Le Guin presents another angle in her book on writing. “Well, to live in the present only would be to live in the world of newborn infants or of people who have lost their long-term memory.”

My issue is that living in the moment negates both past and future. Nothing counts outside now.

You never look back or look ahead. In the moment, guilt over what was and worry about what might be doesn’t exist. What could be wrong with that?

It’s never productive to wallow in shame or regret. But neither is repression. Healing comes when you face your past squarely.

Everyone messes up. Guilt is often the vehicle driving you to repentance that brings freedom.

God’s word tells us frequently to remember and give thanks. Remember both good times and difficult ones. Reflect on where God showed up. Give thanks for all of it.

The roots of your history run deep. Your past made you who you are. Ignoring it won’t make it disappear.

By remembering, you can redeem your mistakes and let them teach you.

Conversely, you must look ahead. Every action today bears a consequence later. However you choose to live in the present shapes your future, like it or not.

A wise person plans for what’s ahead, counts the costs, and stores up for leaner times.

Your hopes for the future become the rudder that guides you today. If you have ambitions in a certain area, the steps to make it real may take years. You need a plan.

I admit the apostle Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:13-14 seems to contradict. He says to forget what lies behind and press on to what lies ahead.

He’s not advocating selective amnesia. As you persevere toward the future, keep your eyes on Jesus. Run to reach the goal. He is the prize.

How do we as a society look at the recent violence and senseless killing in Charlottesville if we only see through the lens of now?

History provides a context to scrutinize it. What if we never looked back on the Holocaust? Or slavery or the KKK? History’s mistakes become powerful teachers.

We must ask how to prevent these horrors from happening again. Let the future bear on our response to the moment.

If you’re only living in present tense, the past doesn’t matter. But the past must inform your present actions. It provides meaning.

Likewise, the present directs the future. It bears consequences for years to come.

Own your past and learn from it.

Participate fully in your life today.

And look to the future with certain hope, confident of the promises of Christ.

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