By Marc Rademaker
The day is coming nearer and nearer. I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life. Finally, I’ll be a college graduate. What will that feel like? I can’t wait for that weight to be lifted off of my shoulders.
The day comes, I watch the virtual commencement celebrations and they are suddenly done.
I feel a small sense of pride at this achievement but ultimately it is deflated in comparison to my idea of this day.
Have you ever built up to an experience with great expectations, only to have it fall short in real life – only to have that feeling of “Ok, now what?” For me, it seemed especially nonchalant to watch through my computer and be deemed a college graduate rather than with the usual pomp and circumstance associated with the ceremony. It’s not as if I expected all of my problems in life to go away with this one milestone, but I thought I would feel…different.
It can be easy to anticipate these life achievements or events to be life-changing – and they are to a certain degree. I think that’s what often leaves that strange feeling behind. The goal that was being worked towards is finally achieved, sometimes abruptly and without warning, and then what comes after is unfamiliar. We may not expect the newness to completely alter everything about life. Rather, I think that where much of the confusion stems from is a realization that most of life’s struggles, obligations, and responsibilities are still there – regardless of that milestone. After graduating, I still had rent to pay, food to buy, and snow to shovel. My life, including the mundane and obligatory, was still going on.
A landmark which many of us were looking forward to was the end of this last year and the ills that seemed to be associated with the infamous 2020. While it was nice to step into a new year and realize that the past year was not in fact going to last forever, I couldn’t help but once again feel that “Now what?” mentality. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, divisions across many parts of our nation and world are still present, and more noteworthy events have started taking place. Much of our worries still exist, albeit in a different calendar year.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that we are ignoring the true meaning of the “Now what?” mentality. Often, my reasoning for this mentality is like saying: “Well, that didn’t turn out the way I expected, so I might as well set my sights on the next big thing.” However, this is the opposite of what is being said in this statement, which is literally stating now. Rather than focusing on that first word as is in the present tense, it can be easy to put it into the context of the future, emphasizing the what as if the next event or change will bring about some higher level of clarity or peace.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” -Matthew 6:34
Jesus puts it into very plain words in the Gospel of Matthew, saying that each day brings about its own trouble. This can be in the form of stress, suffering, conflict, worry, loneliness, and so many other struggles. How can we be prepared for what we are facing now when the what of tomorrow is plaguing us, subconsciously and directly? And yet, for me and I know for many others, the preoccupation with what is to come can sometimes be so overwhelming that it actually leads to stagnation and a freeze in the action of daily life.
When the what begins to occlude the now, it can be almost impossible to bring the present back into focus alone, which is why our relationships are so important. The community we find of family, friends, and others who know us and can support us is crucial to maintaining perspective on life’s daily struggles, especially when those struggles are leading us down a path that can be near-destructive. But to gain true perspective is to lean on someone bigger than any of us, as is evidenced in the verse preceding that above.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33
Most importantly, a real relationship in the now with the Lord is where the present lies, where perspective is, and where the truth is revealed.
And that is hard.
Perhaps the hardest part of this relationship is the self-sacrifice it takes to maintain it. Unlike our human relationships where we can see the person with whom we are speaking in their human body, having a conversation with God takes a great deal more work. And for me, one of the biggest barriers to pursuing this relationship is humility: realizing that I am not God and that I am often not equipped to appropriately handle life’s struggles on my own. Over and over again, I am humbled to realize the truth that I can’t always see the big picture alone.
Perhaps more humbling is how much clearer that picture is when I am committed to maintaining a perspective on God. When I put Jesus at the center of my day, it is miraculous how my problems come into focus. Roadblocks and procrastination are inevitable in this pursuit, and consistency is not easy. He doesn’t solve my problems for me by any means, but they start to become unaccompanied by worry, obsession, or preoccupation.
It’s important to remember that having a relationship with the Lord is not passive, but an active two-way interaction. In fact, the Gospel is a call to action, as evidenced by the two mentioned verses. When we choose to pursue him as in Verse 33, we are better equipped to tackle whatever comes our way today as in Verse 34.
A hopeful life sure is a lot more fun than one of despair, and can help us to realize that not every future event will be detrimental. Really, it is in life’s consistent relationship with the Lord that a difference is made, and through this commitment that those milestones and achievements are reached with even more quality and understanding than before. Rather than stewing in the thought of tomorrow’s stagnation, instead choose to run with the idea of whatever action the Lord may be calling you to pursue.
What may that be? The time to find out is now.