When Time Touches Eternity
When Time Touches Eternity
Cherry Springs State Park is in the middle of nowhere. But the middle of nowhere is exactly where you need to be to see stars and ditch the cell reception. Navigating with a map and from memory is the best kind of getaway. Cherry Springs is known as a “dark skies” locale –it is one of the best places on the East Coast to star gaze.
The bright moon made the stargazing less than stellar but being able to point out Jupiter and Mars and keep our children awake late into the night was nonetheless exciting. But even more enjoyable was the scenery, the unplugging and the exploration.
The reason you and I plan regular getaways is, so we can live in the moment. Our daily lives are consumed with the future and the past; we need a planned time to focus on the present. We know that when we live in the present moment we are filled with more joy and more satisfaction.
C. S. Lewis wrote a fictional work called Screwtape Letters in which a series of letters are written from an experienced demon to his green nephew, instructing him in how to lead his “patient” away from Christ (the enemy). In one memo, Screwtape admonishes his nephew to distract the patient from living in the present.
“The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the present is the point at time at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.
The way that we process the present moment is most like eternity. Yet we spend much of our time thinking about the future. What will I do next? How will this project end? What will the result be? What will we do if…? Yet by perpetually looking ahead, we fix our attention on the realm where sin is most natural.
By living for the future, we sacrifice the present.
“Nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, [greed], lust, and ambition look ahead…When the present pleasure arrives, the sin is already over.”
By living for the future, we sacrifice the present. We take the gifts of the present – the comforts, the joys, the senses, the experiences - and we turn them from gifts to be enjoyed into opportunities to be exploited. We are like a runner whose finish line is always half a lap away.
Even as I write these words a battle rages within me. My carnal mind is anxious. The restlessness is neither loud nor obvious. It is like the hum of the refrigerator I’ve come to ignore: always present, always active, and seldom noticed. My low-grade anxiety stems from constantly living at least 60 minutes ahead of myself. What will I do next? Can I add one more item to the list? Will these words assemble in a coherent way?
Meanwhile, my sacred mind is thinking different thoughts unnoticed. God is here. The sun is warm on my skin. The color saturation on the grass has dramatically increased this week. Houses today are highly effective. No problem is insurmountable. I can’t determine tomorrow or next year. Every conflict I feel is resolved in Christ.
It is in Christ, that our minds are trained to stop worrying about the future or regretting the past.
The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote in 2:22-25:
22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. 24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
It is in Christ, that our minds are trained to stop worrying about the future or regretting the past. We can simply rest in the security, resolve and peace of mind created by Christ on the cross. In the words of C. S. Lewis, do not let today be another day “in pursuit of a rainbow’s end…always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.” The present is full of gifts from God. Enjoy them – and learn to live heavenward.