For many years, I had a phrase that described my life. It wasn’t really a good phrase–it would just sound like gibberish to most people. And the thing it described wasn’t very good either. Once I identified the thought process, it made me ashamed. I knew that I was
LIVING FOR THE WHEN.
What that means (at least to me) is that I was always dreaming of a better, brighter day– A day when I would be ___________, when I would have _________, when life would be more __________. I imagine we can all fill in our own blanks.
But no matter how you fill them, it leaves us discontent, never satisfied with what is here today. We may all have different answers, but they are all equally sinful. I have written about this before, and fought it valiantly for years now, but it tends to lurk in corners and occasionally growls softly in the darkness.
I have been reading a recently-discovered C.S. Lewis book called Paved With Good Intentions–sort of a sequel to The Screwtape Letters–which involves a demon giving instructions on how to corrupt a Christian. There are lots of eye-opening ideas in this book, but today I came across a passage that took my breath away.
The author explains that God wants to keep his children’s minds on the Present (this point that touches eternity) or else on Eternity, which is God Himself. The demon’s objective, therefore, is to direct a person’s thoughts toward either the Past (which is only of limited value for most people) or the Future.
It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time–for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.
That one phrase in the middle… making them “think of unrealities” That smacked me hard. One lesson I have learned over the years, first introduced to me in Elizabeth George’s book Loving God With All Your Mind, is that worry is not true. She admonished that the Philippians 4:8 edict to think on things that are true will make it impossible to worry. Anything that has not happened is NOT TRUE. I have embraced that firmly and reminded myself of it often. But somehow I had never quite realized that Living for the When was also NOT TRUE in exactly the same way. To plan, and perhaps even to dream, are not sinful in themselves, but when one lives for them, it becomes a fantasy world, and plays perfectly into the hand of my soul’s enemy.
It’s no wonder I love C.S. Lewis. He says the stuff that my soul needs but can’t quite put into words. And he says it so well.
And that reminds me of the Elisabeth Elliot quote that is currently occupying my kitchen windowsill:
It is always possible to be thankful over what is given rather than to be miserable over what is withheld. One or the other becomes a way of life.
Yes, Lord. Thank you for the wise words of saints gone before!