God’s been teaching me that I can worry in the present, but I can’t worry about the present. I can only live it. Worry is always focused on the future, even if the future is five seconds away. So perhaps the best way to stop worrying is to locate yourself firmly in the here and now (in dialogue with God, of course). And of course, focusing on today lets tomorrow worry about itself (Jesus said that in Matthew 6).
Second, the most intense joys and pleasures are found in the present moment. I can remember the joy bursting from my chest like the shekinah glory of God when I cuddled each of my kids in the hospital after they’d been born. Even thinking of this brings me joy. But that’s a derivative or residual joy, nothing compared to the actual moment when it happened. It borrows it’s power from that moment, much like the moon reflects light from the sun. It’s the same with the future. Thinking about going to disneyland one day brings kids joy, but that’s nothing compared the joy they get while they’re riding Space Mountain. Strangely enough, the future thinking borrows it’s joy from something that hasn’t even happened yet. Anticipation.
Ask people what they’re doing when they’re the happiest, and they’ll list things like fishing, spending time with their kids, making love to their spouse, walking along a beach. No one ever says, “remembering walking along a beach,” or “thinking about walking along a beach.” Right? If that’s true, then the statistic I quoted a few days back (that the average person spends 46.9% of their time thinking about being somewhere else) also means that 46.9% of the time, we’re choosing a frame of mind that rules out the deepest joys in life. That’s staggering.
As I’ve already said, we need to reflect on the past and anticipate the future. But only when it’s absolutely necessary, and only for as long as necessary. How can we know if its necessary, and for how long? Well, it’s like this: The reason we time travel is to bring something back from the time we’re visiting. So time travel is only worthwhile (and necessary) when it enables us to live more fully in the present moment armed with what we brought back from our journey. Once we’ve got what we need in the other time, it’s time to come back to the present.
If I look ahead and bring back an octopus of worry, that’s a waste of time.
If I drift back to draw strength from a time when God came through for me so I can better trust him in the present situation, that’s gold.
If I drift ahead to plan my schedule so I can still attend my son’s soccer game during a busy week, that’s gold.
But again, once I’ve got what I needed, it’s time to come home.
So the next time you time travel, ask yourself, “Why am I going here? What do I hope to bring back?” If you don’t have a great answer, it’s not a great idea. And… ! Oh. The doorbell just rang. In the present.