Cultivating Gratitude: The Sacrament of the Present Moment
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. —Romans 12:2
Running has become an unexpected gift in my life. The steady rhythmic sound of my breath hitting the cool morning air. The crunch, crackle, and slide of the gravel beneath my feet. I feel free in the moment. Uninterrupted and undistracted. I know that I won’t be able to do anything else until I finish. I’ve found few things as satisfying as the contemplative nature of a trail run. It invites me into the sacrament of the present moment.
But there are times when I’m running that I catch myself beginning to think about how far I’ve come or about how much further I have to go. It makes me overly self conscious. My mind drifts from the present. My legs get heavy. It virtually ensures that my run will become a long and difficult slog. Something I tell myself on such occasions is “Run right here.” “Think about the blessing of being here, right now, in this place with all of its hardships and joys.”
Shedding the regret of the past and fears about the future is a liberating experience. What a blessing to see what God has given us right here and now! Jesus says:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? —Matthew 6:25-27
Don’t live in the past, learn from it.
Dwelling on the past can give birth to everything from nostalgia to pain. They can become distractions from the present. The past cannot be altered, only redeemed. We must learn to surrender to the present moment. All of those past moments, the highs and the lows, have led us to the one God has given us now. Preoccupation with the past robs us of the blessings before us.
Don’t worry about the future, prepare for it.
It is likely to be very different from how we imagined it. If we knew what awaits on the trail ahead, we would probably avoid some of the best parts of the journey—the difficult parts where God ultimately draws us near to Him and demonstrates His love to us. It is the love we discover in adversity that transforms us. We learn on intimate terms God’s faithfulness. We cannot avoid adversity no matter how hard we try. But we can prepare for it. Practicing how to live in the present moment helps us grow habits that will give us strength and perspective when hardship arrives.
Let’s thank God for the present moment. For redeeming our past. For growing a better future for us in the present. Let’s thank Him for challenging situations and people. They can help us to grow in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise. God grant us the grace to travel through this week welcoming everything life brings across our paths.