“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy tale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness…
Sink deeply into the world as it stands. Breathe in the smell of rain and scuff of leaves…This is where life is, not in some imaginary, photo-shopped dreamland. Here. Now. You, just as you are. Me, just as I am. This world, just as it is. This is the good stuff. This is the best stuff there is. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-eyed, open-souled present.”
As I pen this reflection, I’m aware of a number of people whose lives have been turned upside down by the loss of loved ones, a scary medical diagnosis, an unexpected financial crisis, a seemingly unconquerable addiction. For these people, and others like them, author Shauna Niequist’s praise of the present is anything but inspiring or consoling. For them, and for all of us from time to time, perfect over present would be just fine, thank you.
Fortunately for most of us, the present is usually devoid of life’s more difficult challenges; we are often lucky enough to go for long stretches without the trials and tragedies that can wound our bodies and sear our souls. It is these more typically uneventful times that Niequist is inviting us to recognize as potentially replete with meaning, and encouraging us to enter into “completely, wide-eyed,” and with an open soul.
So much of our lives are spent between life’s highs and lows, that we can easily become lulled and dulled by their predictability. Most of our days and years are spent doing what it takes to sustain life for ourselves and those in our charge. But those same activities – working, shopping, preparing meals, paying bills, and the like – if we are fully present to them, can become “sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity.”
Of course it is not possible to be fully present to the present 24/7, but it is possible to return to the present when we realize that we have become, once again, at a distance from it. Seen in this way, life becomes a matter of returning over and over again to what we are doing and who we are with. This may not sound very exciting, but it might just be the ticket to a more full and fulfilling life.