Present versus Future Orientation

Live in the moment.

I’ve read excerpts from court cases where judges have ruled that the only proper orientation is a future-oriented outlook. Some have flatly said that living in the moment is barbaric. If you aren’t working for tomorrow, you are somehow suffering from diminished capacity and can’t be treated as an adult. Coming from another culture simply doesn’t matter.

This is evil. The Bible clearly teaches you to live in the moment. Granted this is not the same thing as living for the moment, allowing your physical appetites to control your decisions. We are talking about making the most of the moment because no one can promise tomorrow. And if there is a tomorrow, you have to get today right or tomorrow won’t matter. Those same judges’ rulings conflate mindless living with a mindful get-it-right-today. The only right answer is living for tomorrow.

In the Bible, you take what God grants today and obey Him with it. If His Spirit moves you to extravagance, then you give freely. If He leads you to taking only what you need, then you save the rest according to Biblical Law. We take seriously the promise that God will supply our need. If tomorrow sees the pantry empty, then doing without is for His glory. It’s not a matter of having the same answer for every moment, but of being sensitive and trusting Him.

In a certain sense, to be Western is to deny God’s existence. You can come up with all kinds of rhetoric asserting a belief in God, but all your actions and your frame of reference in Western culture presumes there is no God. You end up assuming that you actually have some major control over the future.

Testimony: During my time in the military, I was chosen by my superiors to exercise leadership far more often than I actually wanted. I typically went into a situation — particularly at training/schools with a relatively short duration — with an expectation that I was going to promote someone else. I kept looking for people I could encourage and push to the front.

I expected to have influence; I did plan to help shape things. But that was always aimed at bringing peace; I actually hate conflict. I’ve often simply walked away from all kinds of people who insisted they had some divine right to stir up conflict with me. I flatly refused to participate. If walking away was not allowed, I simply refused to respond.

It’s not that I was never willing to fight, but the one thing I could not abide was senseless conflict, which is mostly all human conflict. My aim was always to bring order into a chaotic situation so that everyone involved could get on with what they thought really mattered. Frankly I wasn’t all that concerned with what got accomplished. I was always looking for ways to improve the working situation. I wanted to build people up. I have never had ambition for winning accolades and positions; I just wanted things to go well while they were going, wherever they were going.

Notice how this is the whole point behind the Law of Moses. Nothing in the Covenant talks about conquering the world or converting everyone. It was all about living right from day to day and focusing on making sure to stay in God’s favor. He took care of everything else. Life itself was the whole point, not necessarily living long or getting rich. Those things were admired on some level, but it never ranked all that high in the scheme of things. The Law Covenants have always been about the process, not the product.

So I followed this instinctively in the military and kept getting pushed up into the leadership positions. And stuff kept getting done, but I would never revel in the glow of awards. I treated them as simply fulfilling the rituals. I wanted to get done with the ceremony and get back to work. My greatest joy was day to day watching the power of God touch people’s lives and make a difference, whether small or great.

This wasn’t planned; it was simply what drove me. It turned out to be the best strategy for promotions. It was always in my best interest, but I was focused on how it was in everyone else’s best interest. This is simply how God worked in my life.

The other thing that drove me was finding ways to get out and be alone. I’ve always been an introvert with a powerful need for isolation to recharge. I never wallowed in human company. I love people, but I know that one of the best things I can do for folks is get away from them for at least a part of each day. I often had to beg for a chance to get some solitude during military training/schools. The instructors understood, but the military culture denies such a need exists.

I still miss the serving, but I don’t miss the idiocy of military “doctrine.” Military doctrine pretends that you really must be future-oriented, but the very best way to survive the military experience is to expect the worst of tomorrow and make the most of today. Most troops were reduced for at least a time to just fulfilling their fleshly lusts as if there were no tomorrow. However, early promotions fell on those who managed to live in the moment with some level of moral accountability. Granted, it didn’t require much depth, but it did require seeing how you had to focus on the mission at hand, never mind whether it actually mattered in any wider sense.

In the end, once I got hurt, I made some of my superiors angry because I refused the next promotion on the grounds that I was on my way out the door, and they needed to give that promotion slot to someone else. I still believe I did the right thing. Somebody else got that promotion and stayed in service.

I’m still living for today, because it’s the best way to handle however many tomorrows I get.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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