This morning when I woke to my children climbing on each other and me and complaining of each other’s intrusion into their personal space, I found myself very quickly feeling resentful and grumpy. It was my first day back at school – in person, not on a computer – for eight weeks and I was frustrated to find all the work that I had done over the holidays to help my children sleep better landing me back here, with them clambering over me and each other as though we had never bought them their own beds. Very quickly I found myself thinking, “Here we go again.”
It’s a common enough feeling at the moment: the sense that we continually return to these places that we do not want to be in; the sense that our lives keep repeating themselves in never-ending cycles.
But I want to challenge that thinking in myself. I want to remind myself that even with each return to old, unwanted places – the things I would gladly leave behind – I am not the same. At least, I am not if I am responsive to the work that God is doing in me and in the world. God is not stuck on repeat, nor is my life “Groundhog Day”, much as it may feel like it. Each day, each season builds on those before it. Each day, if we are listening to God, is a step further in His direction, even if we cannot see what that direction is.
I recently read a beautiful poem by Robert Browning entitled “Now” in which two lovers seek to overthrow the tyranny of time by “mak[ing] perfect the present”, finding the eternal in the momentary. It’s a wonderful image but I want to do better than that. I can seize a moment of time in a photograph or a poem and try to capture it with timeless qualities. But better than that is when each moment builds on the last, when even loss is growth when it carries us more in God’s direction.
How, then, should I live if once again my children destroy my sleep? I write these words while holding one of the twins who has woken up coughing; it does not bode well for the rest of the night. Well, one thing I can try to do – emphasis on try – is to “make perfect the present” by finding God in the present. Whether I am revisiting old ground that I want to escape or in a moment that I want to preserve for ever, I can try saying simply, “Here I am, God, where You have placed me now. Show me how I can use this moment to move closer to You.”
Right now, we are bound by time. It frustrates us constantly by moving slowly when we want it to race and disappearing when we want it to stay. But God is not bound by time, and He orchestrates all our present moments to bring about His perfection, moment on moment on moment. Let’s listen to Him.