Every year, rather than setting resolutions I’ll never keep and writing endless lists of goals for the year ahead, I choose one word that will frame my year. I spend time praying and thinking it over in the weeks leading up to New Year’s, and then start a new year with a new word. Last year, I chose grace. It’s a beginner’s concept for us Christians, but it’s one that I will be learning and coming back to for the rest of my life, every day. I chose it last year because I was in a season where I really needed to learn how to be more gracious toward myself and toward those around me.
And what a year of grace it was. I have learned quite a bit about grace, especially as a job called, and I moved, to work at a place called none other than Grace Covenant Church. (The irony is not lost on me).
Over the last seven months, as I have been settling into my new city, my new job, my new community… I have felt a strain toward the past and toward the future. I miss North Carolina in many ways — I had great friends there, a church that was messy but that I loved, and it was safe. Then, I start looking toward the future — where I will have the job that is perfect for me, and a husband and family, or maybe even just back in the same place with my great friends.
And what I am finding is that this looking backwards and forwards constantly is giving me whiplash. My nostalgia for the past is different than simply remembering. To remember would just be to recall the goodness I had in North Carolina, and then in hope, believe that I would experience it here too. But nostalgia has me wishing I was back there. And nostalgia keeps me from believing in God’s goodness, in the here and now.
And when I live completely oriented to a future that isn’t yet here, I am generally pretty disappointed. I have a good job that pays me well, equips me and challenges me, and is teaching me a lot. And yet, it’s not in the field I want to be in, and it’s not “what I see myself doing long term.” (A refrain many of you have heard from me).
But what that causes in me is a discontent that is anything but holy. I grow impatient at the pace things are moving in my life, because I haven’t arrived there yet. I long for friendships that are already formed, but I glance over the beginning steps that it takes to get there.
And so my word for this year is PRESENT.To look toward the future, and rejoice in the past… but to live present. To embrace the calling, the task, God has put before me now, in this season. To see the skills its teaching me and how its developing me for the future, but to embrace its present state. To look for friendships and relationships here, where I live, where I am, and with whom I am doing life. To multi-task less, and give myself fully to something more. To start cross fit, now, because why the hell not? To show up to things, to speak up, to be brave. To cook more meals, and nurse drinks longer. To talk with the people in front of me more, and be on my phone or my social networks less. To write letters and longer emails and blogs, because I am here, and this is me now, and this is what God is doing, and if I don’t look quickly, I will miss it.
Living present means not waiting until tomorrow. It doesn’t mean foolishness, because there is no tomorrow. It just means living, fully, in the moment God has set before me.
And it’s freeing. Already these last few months, my arms feel a little lighter, and my neck feels a little better. I am looking back and forth less, and setting my gaze, and my heart, on the path God has before me now.
I am becoming more present.