My dad said something to me on the phone the other night that made me moderately to majorly annoyed.
I had called to catch up on a few things that had happened that day. I was in a particularly good mood so our conversation was spirited. And then he lowered the boom.
“You know, sometimes when you call you sound so down in the dumps and I think…why? What more could you want? You work for people who love you, you live in a city you love, you have your health, you have so many opportunities and so much going for you…what else could you ask for?”
I reacted defensively, because, well, that’s how I was feeling at the moment.
“Dad…I do love my life. But I feel like I can’t just settle for what I have right now. I have goals! I have high standards for myself!”
To which he offered another boom.
“That’s fine. But good grief, stop kicking yourself in the meantime. You’ll get there! But you’ve got to cut the present some slack.”
It’s 4 days later and I’m still thinking about what he said. Not because I’m still annoyed. But because he’s so right. Soooooo right.
The truth is, I spend the majority of my life forgetting this verse:
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
In fact…let’s rewind and just give the whole passage a once-over:
25-26“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
27-29“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
30-33“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
You know what really puts me in my place? This verse: “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.” Oh my word…it makes my stomach do back flips in shameful regret. Because I do know God, I do have a personal testimony of his faithfulness that has been born from experience, I do have faith that he is who he says he is and does what he says he will do. But more often than not I don’t act like it. As per the passage, I’m not necessarily worrying about what I will wear (um, sweatpants, clearly)…although I have stood in front of a mirror and wished to grow just another inch or two. Most of the time, though, my discontent with today and worries about tomorrow aren’t attached to anything in particular. Instead, I decline taking the maximum amount of joy in the good things of today because I fear losing them, not making the most of them, or just completely missing out on something better tomorrow.
This trait – sacrificing the joy of today because of the uncertainty of tomorrow – is built into my DNA. It’s a lethal combination of hating change, fearing the passage of time, and having a pension for overachieving. So the propensity to never be fully invested in the current moment is nothing new, even though it has been on overdrive lately. It is, however, something that needs to change.
This week I’ve tried to catch myself in every negative thought and turn it into something grateful. In every anxious, frustrated postulation about the future and refocus on what is happening right now.
Because I have so much right now.
Thanks for telling me the truth, Dad. I needed to hear it.