I’ve had a saying I wrote in a journal close to twelve years ago that has stuck with me. It’s something God’s used to keep me in the present. It goes something like this…
“You spend too much time in yesterday. You overestimate tomorrow. But you vastly underestimate the power of today.”
It’s so true, isn’t it? We’ve all done it – spent too much time reliving the past. Past mistakes. Previous victories. Former highlights. Have you ever noticed that the past always looks greener? It’s why we say ‘The good ole days’, right? Or the past looks darker than it actually was. We maintain past regrets and mistakes.
What about tomorrow? Ever overestimated what you can accomplish the next day or some day in the future? Yea, me too. We schedule in our calendar as tight as possible, squeezing a minute till we make it fart twice. (Yep, just said that.) Then tomorrow comes and things don’t happen as the calendar said they would.
And then there’s today, the present. It’s easy to be wrapped up in yesterday’s memories or tomorrow’s worries that we miss today. Today has so much potential. Take our eyes off today too long and we miss what God designed today for. We miss what God is accomplishing in us in the present. We miss opportunities to connect with another human being, maybe a daughter or son or parent.
There’s substantial power in the present.
But let’s not totally rule out yesterday and tomorrow. They both have merit, even with my scolding quote above. And that’s where our journey today will take us. Let’s briefly explore the power of yesterday, tomorrow, and the present. I firmly believe an over-focus on tomorrow and yesterday is damaging to today. But that does not invalidate the benefit of looking back or ahead.
The power of yesterday
I journal. A lot. I journal on my phone, iPad, laptop and yes, even in a traditional pen and paper book journal. None are in sync, but that’s not the point. It’s in the journaling that gets me through the toughest in life. There’s something about getting what’s on the inside, out. It gives it handles and helps me organize my thoughts.
What’s fascinating is going through entries. Looking back helps me regain focus and reminds me how God delivered me through, or delivered to me what I needed that moment. Time has a tendency to remove from memory moments that, when recalled, are catalytic. They move us forward, causing us to stretch yet again as God molds us more into the image of Jesus. Times of God’s past faithfulness are a present source of strength.
The power of tomorrow
Not everyone is a planner. I get that. I wasn’t always a planner. My life has been more “let’s see what happens” rather than, “let’s plan to make it happen”. And that mostly worked out well.
But then I married one 21 years ago. She converted me.
The adage that says if you fail to plan you plan to fail is more true than not. I still love how spontaneity feels, but I’ve realized that if I, as Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind”, I can attain that end if I plan to get there. Want a great vacation, marriage, family, retirement? Plan for it.
I recognize God’s order the more Nicky has converted me to a planner. Look closely enough and you’ll see design patterns all throughout Scripture. Not only are design patterns present, but God’s continual planning for us as well. Paul writes in Romans 8:28 that “… we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”. We can safely expect God’s future faithfulness, which also becomes a present source of strength.
But don’t underestimate the power of today
I had just reached the base of my deer stand. The crisp air of the cool fall morning could scarcely be detected. But when it moved, it felt sharp on my skin. I climbed the stand, the cold metal sending the chill it held through my hands. I was ready to hunt. I was ready to relax. I was ready to be present in the moment. I was ready to release.
I was seeking stillness much like the air that morning. But rather than stillness, my mind was like a pile of Legos from six unique sets, all mixed and dumped out on the floor. I worried about the future. I relived regrets from past mistakes. And the concoction made a cocktail of misery for my mind. Not only was I not in the present, but I was ruled by the past and future, allowing them to take over.
It wasn’t long before I heard God simply say, “Be all here”.
I responded audibly, “I am all here”. At that moment, my chance of seeing deer dropped significantly, but I didn’t care. The same thought came, “Be all here”. God knew I was missing the moment, that day. I needed to be all there, and I wasn’t.
There is so much potential in the present, however, it’s easily missed when we underestimate just how potent that potential is. This happens when our minds aren’t in the present, but distracted by regrets of the past or the uncertainty of the future. We end up missing moments, memories that we can never get back and opportunities lost. We aren’t nearly as efficient because of the nagging distractions of the past and future. Mentally, it feels like the hamster on the wheel. Satan keeps our thoughts moving, so we miss what’s right there in front of us.
There’s potential and power when we capitalize on today, on what’s right in front of us. Planning is good. I’m for it! And looking back has benefits. But neither is any benefit when they rob us of the moment we’re currently in. We miss “Being all there”.
I spoke audibly again, only this time at Satan. I told him to leave my thoughts; he had no authority in my mind, and he wouldn’t derail this time in the woods. And the coolest thing happened. He left.
God ministered to me in that moment. The rest my mind needed, the peace I was after, the stillness in my spirit. They all came. But they came because God reminded just how powerful the present is.
I know what you’re thinking
“You can spend too much time in the now.” And I would agree with you completely! That’s why I started off with the power of yesterday and tomorrow. We can’t expect success without good planning. And we can’t make plans for tomorrow without sometimes looking back.
But we can’t underestimate the power of today. Once it’s spent, it’s gone. We can’t get it back. I don’t want to waste another moment regretting yesterday or worrying about the unknown tomorrow. I don’t have time to waste on either. I would rather invest time in what’s happening right now, in the day God’s given me.
And in that I find rest, peace, and power in today.