|The Time is Now|
In the fine cinematic masterpiece Wayne's World, I believe it was Garth who uttered the famous dictum to his harassed and harried friend, "Live in the Now."
Rob Bell would agree. (More or less.) He finishes Love Wins with one of his key convictions: Life, in Jesus's eyes does, not consist in "going to heaven when we die" (although Jesus does promise eternal life). Instead, it is about responding to God now.
Whatever you have been told about the end—
the end of your life,
the end of time,the end of the world—
Jesus passionately urges us to live like the end is here,
today.If I understand Bell correctly (and I hope I do since I've been reading and re-reading him for the past month or so), he is urging us to live now in God's presence, to respond now to the Good News.
I'll bet you can guess where this brings me: back to St. Clive (aka C. S. Lewis). Lewis puts the problem of human existence—or better the ongoing temptation of time—into the mouth of his fictional devil, Screwtape. (Remember in reading this that "the Enemy" is God.)
we want a man hag-ridden by the Future—haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy's commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other— dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.
C. S. Lewis has put the finger right on my pulse at least. I am concerned, and even pre-occupied, way too often about what's to come. My work, and my desire to achieve excellence, almost implies obsessiveness with the future. But if we only live in the future, we never live.
I turn to another mentor. Blaise Pascal, that eternally insightful scientist and philosopher of the seventeenth century, pretty much described the same dilemma, but set this dilemma in the words of philosophical reflection. This comes from his Pensées:
We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching.
Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so.I'll let Rob Bell have the last word on this topic, as he ties this call "to live in the now" with the words of Jesus's parables. I find these words true and truly moving. Even though I've quibbled with Bell in previous posts on some things, words like this reminds me that there's deep wisdom in Love Wins.
Jesus tells these stories to wake us up to the timeless truth that history moves forward, not backward or sideways. Time does not repeat itself. Neither does life. While we continually find grace waiting to pick us up off the ground after we have fallen, there are realities to our choices. While we may get other opportunities, we won't get the one right in front of us again.