The Now And The Next
At our recent high school commencement ceremony I was struck once again with one of the complexities of the human condition. Here we are, in the present. We all exist in the “right now.” The past, although it led us to today, is gone and cannot be recaptured. The future or what’s “next” is within our gaze, but it is not yet a reality. So, all we have is now. It was an Ecclesiastes moment.
Watching these teenagers complete a major step in life reminds me of the “next.” We talk to them about their futures, their hopes and dreams, passions; indeed this is what their education has prepared them for: the next. Educators like myself have dedicated our lives to this very thing, shaping the rising generation for the future.
Yet, just like each of us, these young men and women necessarily live in the “now.” They walk and live and breathe as eighteen year olds. They make decisions to take care of their basic needs and interact with the people in their lives, today. In fact, Jesus reminds us to live in the now in his words to the crowd in Matthew 6:24, Do not worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
With this truth in mind, why then do we pursue the future? Why do we spend so much time and effort on the “next” thing? If we are to be content with each day, how is it right to be preparing for what’s coming? Here is where the realities of time and narrative collide. There is a greater story being told in the cosmos than just our individual realities. Our existence is housed within God’s tapestry of time and elements. We live with the paradox of the right now and the very unknown next.
In the now we recognize a call to walk uprightly in our immediate circumstances. We see our current struggles and experience new divine mercies. We entrust our steps, our provision, to our Source. When we think of what’s next we heed Solomon’s words, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short. Proverbs 24:14. We seek wisdom from our “now” so that we might live out a hopeful future. Hope, not worry, is what carries us through the now. I’ve come to believe that God’s intention is for us to be content for today not by consuming and just existing, rather we recognize His gift of hope in the next, and prepare to see His plan unfold in our future. So, our planning for the future is not discontentedness with the now, but is the sign of our hope and an eagerness to see God’s goodness anew in the future.