This morning I read an excerpt from the book THE SHACK. I have never read this book, but was so profoundly touched by this conversation between Jesus and a character named MacKenzie or “Mack”.
“Tell me what you’re afraid of Mack.” (Jesus)
“Well, let me see. What am I afraid of?” began Mack. “Well I am afraid of looking like an idiot, I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that – “
“Exactly,” Jesus interrupted. “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster. If I may prove my case, do you think humans were designed to live in the present or the past or the future?”
“Well,” said Mack, hesitating, “I think the most obvious answer is that we were designed to live in the present. Is that wrong?”
Jesus chuckled,, “Relax Mack; this is not a test, it’s a conversation. You are exactly correct, by the way. But now tell me, where do you spend most of your time in your mind, in your imagination, in the present, in the past or in the future?”
Mack thought for a moment before answering. “I suppose I would have to say that I spend very little time in the present. For me, I spend a big piece in the past, but most of the rest of the time, I am trying to figure out the future.”
“Not unlike most people. When I dwell with you, I do so in the present — I live in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit not an extended stay. And for sure I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me with you?”
Again Mack stopped and thought. It was true.
He spent a lot of time fretting and worrying about the future, and in his imaginations it was usually pretty gloomy and depressing, if not outright horrible. And Jesus was also correct in saying that in Mack’s imagination of the future, God was always absent.
“Why do I do that?” asked Mack.
“It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can’t. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real, nor will it ever be real. You try and play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try and make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear….”
“So why do I have so much fear in my life?”
“Because you don’t believe. You don’t know that we love you. The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into your future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it, you talk about it, but you don’t know it.”
Oh! Am I ever guilty of living most of my time in the future with all the imagined fears that I have about that as a widow! How many wonderful moments have I anxiously fretted away because of all of my fears of the future?
Again, God is prompting me today to live in the present. Not the past. Not the future. Just the present precious moments of today. May God continue to remind me very often because I so easily slip back into the way I’ve been thinking for so many years of my life.