(Greek Orthodox Icon of Christ the Pantocrator – with Greek inscription above His head of “ ‘Ο ΩΝ” which means “I AM”)
This blog post is inspired by the bestseller “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. A book I would recommend reading in the light of knowing and practicing your Christian faith.
“With the past I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
So many of us struggle with time. With our past, — whether decisions we have made, focus on people who hurt us, or reminisce the ‘good ol’ times’, amongst other thoughts. Some of us often times struggle with the future – what university will I get into, what job will I have, when will I get married… how will I provide for my family and so on…
But most of us surprisingly struggle with the present.
We often times get caught in the wrong time zone – we get stuck living in what has happened to us or obsessing/worrying/anxious about tomorrow. We rarely focus on the now and live for the now. We thus often empty our selves from fully living because we live in the time zones of the past and future.
Many of us equate with ‘now’ as a transient place where I need to achieve something in the future. It’s a place where I’m not usually content or satisfied, it’s a temporary state where I journey to acquire or obtain a ‘better future’ or ‘better life’ or better this or that… “better” state implies something that does not exist now but should so in the future. That may be good and true to an extent – but most significantly is our realisation that now is the most important. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but now.
And now is our salvation.
St. Paul says,
“Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2)
In our Christian Orthodox understanding of salvation – salvation is living now. As long as I am alive in Christ now, I am experiencing salvation (for the “kingdom of God is within you” Luke 17:21). Christ’s death and resurrection was not a mere historical event – it is a continual reality that is ever present in those who experience and live it daily. Likewise, this applies to our life now. The only way to live and be alive is in this salvific-present reality, in and through Christ.
Often times we think salvation is in the next life to come – that we must bear our suffering and struggles here with nobility (many sufferings we self-create by living in the past/future – not in the “now” of salvation) – but this is an erroneous theology. Christ came to give us life and more abundantly (John 10:10) and to set us free (“if the Son sets you free then you are free indeed” – John 8:36).
I am not saying that there will be times in the present time that will be the same or less difficult in the times to come or that the past may have been better (whatever ‘better’ may infer to as). There will be days that seem unbearable of traumatic losses or challenges we may face, but there will also be days of rejoicing and ease.
I am also not saying disregard the past as if you were born in a vacuum (for often times we still are dealing with the consequences of our past or dealing with other people’s past in our lives.) Remember the past lessons and blessings for they make us who we are. Nor should we neglect the future and say “eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32) and live life “in the moment” in a neglected sense without Christ. St. Paul didn’t forget his past as a persecutor of the church of God — but he wasn’t stuck there or we wouldn’t have a St. Paul. He lived in the salvation of Christ – and grasped it then and there and ran with it. He also didn’t neglect the future – he anticipated and planned many of his trips and visits to the churches as he states throughout all his epistles. (So living life on the ‘whim’ without plans isn’t the point either.)
The one who finds salvation at every moment is above all.
A powerful excerpt from Tolle’s Power of Now explains this:
“Salvation is not elsewhere in place or time. It is here and now…. Most people pursue physical pleasures or various forms of psychological gratification because they believe that those things will make them happy or free them from a feeling of fear or lack. Happiness may be perceived as a heightened sense of aliveness through physical pleasure, or a more secure and more complete sense of self attained through some form of psychological gratification. This is the search for salvation from a state of unsatisfactory or insufficiency. Invariably, any satisfaction that they obtain is short-lived, so the condition of satisfaction or fulfilment is usually projected once again onto an imaginary point away from the here and now. ‘When I obtain this or am free of that- then I will be okay.’ This is the unconscious mind-set that creates the illusion of salvation in the future.
True salvation is fulfilment, peace, life in all its fullness.
True salvation is a state of freedom – from fear, from suffering, from a perceived state of lack and insufficiency and therefore from all wanting, needing, grasping, and clinging….
It is saying that you need time – that you need to find, sort out, do, achieve, acquire, become, or understand something before you can be free or complete. You see time as the means to salvation, whereas in truth it is the greatest obstacle to salvation.” (pp. 130-131)
Salvation is not a frame of time, but a state – a state of living and being in the Being who gives us salvation – continually.
Behold now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation…
So, then what? How do I live in the “now” when life is a constant reminder of the past or the future? How do I fight the urge to worry when life brings us the stress of deadlines, of past pains that face our reality today, of things that I am not happy with in my life now?
To fully experience the “now” is to be in touch and be living with the One who called Himself the “Now”. I explain below.
When Moses encountered God in the wilderness and questioned who He is, God answered something very odd:
“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM…Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
What or who is “I AM?”
It means the eternal One – the One who “Is”, the One who is “Now.” “I AM” is a state of being – a constant of presence, one who is eternal and timeless. And so are we.
No I am not saying we are God in essence – but I am saying we, being made in His image and likeness, have been given the gift of being timeless (we each have an eternal soul) – we have been given the gift of being in His presence – which is in fact the gift of being in the now – with the Now (that is, God).
Thus, we can only have the full experience of living in the present, the now – in the His presence, in Him who is Now, who is the “I AM”.
Are you struggling with the past? Place it before Him and pray to “forget those things which are behind and reach forward to the things before you” (Phil 3:13 – my translation from the Greek).
Struggling or anxious about the future? Pray to live the verse as He commanded, “Do not worry about tomorrow… seek first the kingdom” (Matt 6:33) and “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let you requests be made to God.” (Phil 4:6)
Seek first the kingdom (the salvation that is now), being prayerful always – these are the tools that bring us into the now, that bring us into His presence. And in doing so, you will see a transformation of life and a freedom from all things, attachments, and anxieties.
For if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.