I’ve thought a lot about the future. In fact, I have thought so much more about the future than pretty much anything else that I often forget what it means to be in the present moment–living a life that is so filled with the next step that even the good seasons I’m living in don’t seem to matter at all.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the fear of not being as far in life as we “should be” (although, funny enough, no one really seems to know what “where we should be” actually is). There’s this deep-seated urgency we are often overwhelmed by, telling us that we must do x, y, and z in order to be valuable–in order to have worth or joy in any sense. And so we spend our time thinking on what’s next, who’s next, where’s next, and we forget the right now, which was once the next. And we live even more fully into our own ambitions and ideas and forsake the relationships, events, and joys right in front of us. This narrow focus on just our own futures slowly leads us into incredible pride because when we are only thinking of ourselves, it is quite easy to fall into such a position of pride.
And when we become so obsessed with the ideas of our next step, we compare–and we cannot stop comparing.
Where our next step is the only thing on our minds, we look at other people who are where we are pining to be and judge and become jealous and eventually cannot even muster up celebration for those around us, experiencing the good we some day hope for ourselves.
There is a balance between being excited for the future, planning within reason, and being obsessed and overwhelmed with the need for the future. But, like C.S. Lewis points out, “Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead.” And I would argue, also, that pride most strongly resides in the future, too. We haven’t been designed to be obsessed with moving forward but to be agents of really loving people in the now. Kurt Vonnegut has this quote that I think sums up really well where our thoughts would be best concentrated relative to the past, present, and future: “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
I think that’s really quite perfect–whether or not we believe that we are where we should be, we can always, always, always engage our lives with the greatest commandment and hope of them all–to love God and love others.
When we can take a breath and realize that the only measure of value in this life comes from our being loved by God and consequentially getting to love Him back and love those around us, we are often left much more free of the notion that our lives must revolve around what’s next.
We are not meant to be next steps, we are meant to love and be loved.