“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
– Thomas Merton
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
– Matthew 6:34
I’ve long been confounded by Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. Despite my aversion to five-year plans, having concerns about tomorrow? Or next week? That I am completely on board with.
On Sunday’s I make a menu for the week. I live and die by my shared Google calendar. My task management software is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
I struggle to live in the moment because this moment is the best time to prepare for the next moment or to reflect on what could have been better in the last moment in the event a similar instance arises again.
And now? I find myself completely subject to the moment. This moment. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring, let alone an hour from now.
As of Friday, I was planning to chaperone a field trip to the library at my daughter’s school. Trying to work through the logistics of when and how I would squeeze in work before and after the trip. By Sunday night, both her school and the public libraries were closed for the upcoming month, and I’m trying to puzzle through a whole new set of logistics for work.
Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself.
And hell if we even know what to anticipate.
I’ve been trying to sit with the anxious feelings settling in my belly, trying to listen to the stress hanging from my shoulder muscles like a kid stuck on the monkey bars. As I try to practice hope it’s imperative I try to answer the question:
What am I really afraid of?
What stress or anxiety is capturing my imagination most?
And I’m realizing so much of my stress is related to the not-knowing aspect of right now. I can’t chart a clear course for even the next week. I can’t fully answer questions about when we’ll be able to resume in-person services for the church. When my daughter asks about returning to school, I can only offer a tentative date.
Such a professional-sounding way of saying “I don’t know.”
Hope and uncertainty are not mutually exclusive though, in fact, they may need one another.
Uncertainty is fertile ground for hope to sprout, and grow, and bloom.
I speak to the anxiety in my belly, to the stress in my shoulders and I thank them for their commitment to reminding me something feels wrong right now. Then I take a deep breath, and I let the breath speak to my body. Provision is given moment by moment. I can no more hoard breath than I can predict the future, but it is provided moment by moment.
As my shoulders soften and my belly stills I remind my body that we do not have to know all the answers, though that’s uncomfortable for us. I remind my body that this moment is enough.
I ask the vigilance taking up residence in my shoulders to consider moving to my eyes. Rather than scrunching and bunching in stress, help my eyes open wider and wider still to see and embrace all that is in this moment. For better or worse. Because as Merton reminds us, every moment contains both concern and possibility, though it remains up to us whether we embrace them or not.