“Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead . . .” Chapter XV, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
“Love to the present.” Hmm. Why did he say “love?” Why not “attention” to the present? We all know that love, according to 1 Corinthians 13, is “patient . . .kind. It does not envy [or] boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Lewis adds that the Present is the point “at which time touches Eternity.” God would have us be either meditating on Eternity, “or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.” If we are obeying the present voice of conscience, we are patient, kind, protective . . . if we bear the present cross, we trust, hope, persevere . . . if we receive the present grace, we are saying thank you, arms and eyes lifted up toward heaven.
Presently, I am sitting on the couch. It is a lazy Friday morning with my children playing on me, around me, trying to unplug the computer, asking for a kiss for their stubbed toes, stealing my neatly stacked recipes I have prepared for the following week and shaking them all out over the floor . . . I kiss a toe, put the toy semi and its \\\\\\\ (sorry. . . that was just Sam putting his two cents in!) back together . . . I think about what we’ll have for lunch. I, honestly, thank God it’s 11:53 already. Lunch and naps are almost here, and I will have time to finish this piece in peace.
It has been very difficult for me to accept that there is so little time to pursue my own goals. I have more constraints than most, as I must stay well rested and keep my life in order to maintain my health. I can’t push the envelope and work while the babies sleep; instead, I must lie down and take a nap, too. Where it used to be that I alone suffered if I fell ill, now they suffer as well. My goal in life has become to stay well to mother them well. It’s not sexy; such a goal doesn’t get me published or make money for my family. But to be fully alive, fully present in the present, is enough of a goal for me to pursue right now.
There are days when I look at my life, and all I can see are the minute-by-minute details that don’t seem to matter, that I won’t remember. I love my family; I empty the dishwasher. I love my family; I pull the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer. I love my family; I clean the dried, oatmeal-laden wooden high chair AGAIN. I love my big boy; I will sing to him while he sits on the potty. I love my baby boy; I will change the fourth messy diaper of the day. I love my husband; I will try, try, try to not be a screaming wreck when he gets done with work for the day! I love myself, I will go to sleep and not finish cleaning. I love the Lord; I submit this day of unfinished tasks, diapers and dishes up to Him. I ask for strength for tomorrow.
There are days I see the big picture and perform my chores joyfully. There are days I have stood, usually after someone has barfed, peed, or worse on me–crying at the kitchen sink, “I am a waste of an education!” But I know I’m not. The feeling passes. I know that my education is part of God’s plan for not only me, but my children as well. I am humbled by the realization that I am a pitcher to be poured out, not only for my well-being, but for the benefit of those around me. It’s just that I had no idea how gross being a mom was going to be!
Lewis’ idea that now–this moment!–is the point at which eternity touches our experience further encourages me as I sing “Casey Junior goes down the track” to a child on the potty. The more love I pour into this moment, into these precious little spirits entrusted into my care, the more I feel the transcendent power of love radiating through every humiliating task I perform. With every diaper and wipe, I love my family. With every meal prepared and dish cleaned, I love my family. I love my family. They are my present.
I want to leave you with a quote from Walter J Burhardt that I keep in my kitchen for my sobbing-at-the-sink days:
“You must be men and women of ceaseless hope, because only tomorrow can today’s human and Christian promise be realized; and every tomorrow will have its own tomorrow, world without end. Every human act, every Christian act is an act of hope. But that means you must be men and women of the present, you must live this moment–really live it, not\\\\\\\(Sam again) just endure it–because this moment, for all its imperfection and frustration, because of its imperfection and frustration, is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, is pregnant with the future, is pregnant with love, is pregnant with Christ.”
What is your present? What are the imperfections and frustrations that overwhelm you? How can you fully live out this moment, and see the eternal touching your mundane moments?
God bless you all in your kitchen sink moments.