For Spring Break I had the joy of a long weekend with my family in Florida, staying at my mother-in-law’s condo on the beach. My children were excited about the ocean, seashells, and beach. However, they were most excited about the pool! Every day they wanted to swim from the moment the sun first burned away the crisp night air until their stomachs demanded that supper be consumed.
On the first day, they jumped in and started the important work of throwing dive toys to the floor of the pool and rescuing them. Soon, another young girl came up from the water with a bright orange ring in her hand and said, “I found one of your toys! Can I play with you?”
For four consecutive days, my kids played with Avi, their new friend. Each morning they looked out the window to see if Avi was at the pool yet, and each night they named playing with Avi at the pool as the highlight of their day. Whenever people ask them about Florida, they almost always mention three things: seashells, the pool, and Avi.
As an adult, what I realize is that there was no hesitation on their part to make a new friend. There was no fear of welcoming this new person into the mix and sharing their toys. There was no hesitation even though they will likely never see Avi again.
I find myself wondering, why is it harder for adults (including myself) to appreciate the present moment and the gift of those who fill it? When do we start assuming that a connection with another person is only worthwhile if there is a future to that relationship? Why is it easy to dismiss the value of relationships where we are no longer connected?
When I look at Jesus Christ’s ministry I am struck that most days the people that cross his path for just a moment shaped much of his ministry. Yes, he also found a community that he walked with long term, who were present in the joys, sorrows, and overwhelming days of ministry. This type of community is so important. However, Jesus also knew that each day God might be revealed in unexpected interactions with new people. These people helped reveal his ministry in new and important ways.
In both the gospel of Mark and the gospel of Matthew, Jesus encounters a Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman shortly after the feeding of the 5,000. He is challenged that even though she doesn’t fall into “who he thinks he is supposed to be serving” she is the ministry that is in front of him. He proceeds to answer her cries and heals her daughter. Following this encounter Jesus’ GPS recalculates and sends him through the land of gentiles where he proceeds to feed the 4,000. This one unexpected, unplanned, unfit for what the future plans “should” look like encounter impacted the future so that God’s love could be more fully known.
How might we open ourselves to be present each day to those who cross our path? What might that openness and those interactions reveal to us about God’s call in our life? What might it teach us about the joy of living in the present? Recently a student shared a quote with me attributed to Dale Carnegie that was important to them: “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” By living in the present, rather than always using the future as a litmus test, we often end up learning more about who God has created us to be.
The truth is that we have responsibilities and need to think and plan for the future. My hope is that in the midst of discerning what will come in the next academic year, this summer, or after graduation, we won’t miss out on the gifts of the present day and those who cross your path.