“Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who take his long-term plans somewhat lightly and woks from moment to moment “as to the Lord”. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” – C.S. Lewis, Learning in Wartime
For those of us who like to plan ahead and anticipate what might be behind every twist and turn of life, the individual who lives “day-to-day” and takes things “as they come” seems to us to be the most obnoxious of fools. How can such a person not see the value in planning, preparing and stressing about all the possible contingencies that must be accounted for?! We are not promised tomorrow, after all, so it’s probably best we worry about it as much as possible in case we don’t get to experience it ourselves.
And yet, as much as these seemingly “carefree” spirits may confound us, it may very well be that they are – in Jesus’ words – “not far from the kingdom.” As Lewis rightly highlights, the prayer of our Lord is not that we would receive tomorrow’s bread as soon as possible but rather that God would grant us sustenance for the life that we face today. Or consider the desert wanderings of the Israelites, whom God provided manna for each day as they journeyed towards the Promised Land. Or recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, where he reminds us that today has enough to deal with on its own without trying to bring tomorrow into the mix.
The reality is that we been given grace sufficient enough to face the day before us. It is when we begin to step outside the boundaries of that grace and fix our eyes on the temporal problems and possibilities of the future that we begin to sink in a sea whose waves may yet still be calm. The fear of tomorrow’s troubles saps us of the capacity to face the present anxieties, to enjoy this day’s work, to appreciate this day’s laughter, to reflect on this day’s tears. If we allow ourselves to engage with this day and this day alone, we will find that God is always present with us – sometimes in a whirlwind, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes somewhere in between.
The admonition of Lewis to all of us who have tried to make a good habit of planning for the future is to keep a light, open-handed grasp on it and allow God to give us grace for the present moment. It is in that space – the graced present – where God’s providential care will reveal itself to us, and it is in that moment that we can begin to do our work – our life – with happiness and joy.