Day 6: Be Here Now. How?
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.--Psalm 119:105
How many times do I find myself well on my way down a path I had no idea I had decided to go down until something happens to give me pause and say, "Wait, how did I get here?!" And I mean all the mundane things we do in a day, like, "How did my house get so messy in a single day?" or "How did I end up in this same fight with my wife about that same stupid thing?" Or "Why am I late to work, again?!" and "Ugh! I have ANOTHER cavity!" and "Wow! We just watched 6 hours of Netflix!...while thumbing my way through Instagram!!!" or "Did I just eat the entire contents of that bag?!" I'm talking about the thoughtless little decisions we have made in every moment that lead to who we are right now because our minds were either in the past or the future rather than enjoying the robust grandeur of the present moment.
Psalm 119:105 is the famous "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" nugget in the middle of the longest chapter in the Bible, an ode to God's Law, his Torah.
I grew up with this verse as a song running through my head thanks to Amy Grant but I only started thinking deeply about it in adulthood. The more I thought about it the more I disliked the verse. I don't want a lamp for my feet! Who needs that?! I don't want a light for my path! I want to see everything around me. I want to know where we are going. I want the big picture. I want to see where I've been and what's coming my way.
The wisdom of this passage is that it implies being present in the moment and strangely enough, this is where we find eternal life. The more you can be free of your past and future the more robust your present tense becomes.
When you are enslaved by your past--marked by regret or over-indulgent nostalgia--your mind chooses to focus on certain aspects of those past moments and disregard other aspects in order to make sense of whatever story (good or bad) you are telling about that moment. I think we tend to do this because telling a single story makes it easier to make sense of our complicated past. The problem is that we can tend to let that memory define our present.
When I was in 8th grade my teacher told me I would never be good at math. She probably said other things but my memory has grabbed that idea and for almost 30 years I have told the story that I am not a math person. It's something I regret but if I take time in the present to neither be enslaved by regret nor over-sentimentalize my past I can have a more accurate view of it and how it affects my present--i.e., math is pretty amazing…that's as far as my metaphysics will take me.
We can also spend our time focusing on the future. When you live too often in the future, our reality is shaped by something that is not real. If regret and nostalgia reign over the past, fear and anxiety reign over the future.
I am a parent of three kids and as they grow older my fear and anxiety for them grow too. I spend way to much time strategizing about things that are not (and most of the time will not ever be) real. If I can view those fears and anxieties with wisdom they can actually inform my present so I can say, "Hm. I am anxious right now and there really is no good reason for that. Let your fear of "which college are they going to go to" inform the current state of your heart--right now you are using your children to grope for some status that will make you feel good about yourself. Stop using your children as a status symbol and go back to playing Legos with them. Be with them, now."
Intentionally living in the present requires wisdom to know what to do with your past and to know how to rein in your future. "A lamp unto my feet" forces me to "be here now" as Ram Das said. Your present can't be robust if your mind is distracted with the past or future. But when past and future are given over to God it actually makes room for God to be with you in the present.
But what is the lamp…actually?
The most glorious thing about this proverb is that Jesus actually sees himself as that lamp unto our feet when he calls himself the Light of the World. Here is why this is good news. When it comes to your next step in life, it's not that you are given a tool that you can use to shed light on the situation. Rather, you are given Wisdom as a guide and more than that, Wisdom is a person who actually speaks to you and walks with you in present fellowship.
I think Jesus is the lamp unto our feet…and that is enough.
It doesn't have to be the same as it ever was. There is so much going on in the lamplight of that one little step forward and Jesus wants us to be there in that moment to enjoy it because that single moment is "charged with the grandeur of God"--as Gerard Manley Hopkins has said--and I don't want to wake up one day, look around in some amnesiac state and wonder how I got here because I never really lived my life in the richness of the moment.
Take a deep breath. Let it bring you back to the grandeur of this present moment. You have fellowship with the Divine. Jesus is with you.
I confess that I am drawn away from the present by guilt, shame and regret of my past and/or my fear regarding the future and my anxious attempts to control it. Wisdom, guide me away from regret. Keep me safe from future fear. Let me be here with you, now…Oh! This moment is beautiful! You are beautiful! Life is beautiful. Thank you. Amen.