Living in the Past, Present, or Future?

We older folks are often accused of living in the past and thinking everything back then was so much better than now. I’m not one of them.

As a few of you may recall from a former blog post, I don’t seem to have nearly as many memories of my childhood and teen years as adults typically have. I attribute that, whether correctly or not, to the acute viral encephalitis that could have killed me or left me in a vegetative state, but from which God restored me to a reasonable normal condition. But one that was somewhat fuzzy about the past.

That was in the eighth grade. I wouldn’t want to relive that part of my past.

College years were fine, but not exciting. Neither was my teaching career or my years at the Maryland State Job Service as a counselor/interviewer.

Life grew more meaningful when I took some computer programming courses and went to work at the International Mission Board. Working behind the scenes of something important gave me a feeling of significance I’d never experienced before. I had some wonderful successes before I started having problems with a new job assignment.

And then I got downsized after almost nineteen years.

Those memories aren’t things to dwell on. Despite the many good moments, I’ll never think of those years as “the good old days.”

 

What about the future?

As a Christian, I’m not afraid of death, although I would love to have the assurance that the process of dying would be quick and painless…and that my wife, Kathleen, and I would die at the same time so neither of us would have to face life without the other.

But the future–at least the part where I’m still alive on earth–isn’t knowable.

I don’t have many dreams about what I’d like the future to hold. Yes, of course I’d like for my novels–some of them, anyhow–to suddenly take off and start selling. Not because I care about the income, but because I want to know they’re blessing and entertaining readers.

I can’t help wishing and hoping (yes, and praying, too) that at least one of my songs will end up in a collection of praise and worship songs. Maybe even in a hymn book!

I hate to admit it, but when I’m expecting a shipment of some tiny something-or-other from Amazon, you’d almost think I was a little kid waiting for his parents to wake up on Christmas morning so he can start opening presents.

That’s a bit weird, maybe, but that’s how I am. My future on earth doesn’t promise to be the best time of my life. Especially as my body falls apart a little more year by year. I hope and pray my mind doesn’t do the same thing.

And the present?

That leaves the present. I’ve ended up with two skills–two things I love using–I’m not able to use the way I’d like to. Yes, I’ll keep working on developing them even more, but knowing I may be doing it only for my own benefit is discouraging.

Until yesterday–or was it this morning?–I was super-frustrated at what I perceived as my lack of usefulness. I couldn’t see myself accomplishing anything, and that thought was more depressing than I’d like to think about.

It’s no wonder. Many–maybe most–of the authors I know have more book ideas running through their heads than they can use in a lifetime. I don’t.

I’d started working on a sequel to one of my teen books. I’d even designed a cover for it and written a few chapters.

But I just couldn’t get excited about it and haven’t been able to proceed. It’s not a matter of writer’s block, but of questioning whether this was what I should be doing.

You can better understand now why I was feeling useless and insignificant, at least in the areas of my life that are so important.

But I prayed, and I kept praying, and God led me back to an idea I had begun considering in January of this year. Why I set it aside then, I couldn’t tell you.

But I’ve fallen in love with it. Working on it won’t restore my losses in other areas, but I feel good again. Great!

Living in the present seems to work best, as long as I don’t totally forget the past or fail to consider the future. And when today’s present becomes the past, I’ll find something in that future time to make that present time the best.

Where do you live–past, present, or future? How about leaving a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. Here’s the new cover and title for what was previously published as PROJECT MUFFINTOP.

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Ultimate Significance

The Rolling Stones “can’t get no satisfaction” and Bob Dylan wants to have a “satisfied mind” when he dies. Why do I get the impression Dylan and the Stones are pursuing different goals–probably very different ones?

What is satisfaction, anyhow? Is it what the WordWeb dictionary I’m using defines as “the contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation”? And is satisfaction a realistic goal?

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe even a tad judgmental. But it seems to me that whatever the Rolling Stones are hoping to get satisfaction from is apt to be very temporary in nature. A person may eat until he’s satisfied, but he’s still going to get hungry again. No need to elaborate.

At least Dylan’s goal is to be satisfied when he enters eternity. Whatever gives him final contentment must be of an eternal nature. Since “Satisfied Mind” is on one of Dylan’s Christian albums–yes, he wrote and recorded at least three of them–I hope he’s talking about satisfaction with the way he’s lived and his confidence in where he’s going at death. Definitely not temporal.

But what about significance? That’s what this post is supposed to be about.

Significance means importance; that’s the definition I’m using here, anyhow. Contentment and importance are not one and the same, and neither are significance and satisfaction. Those two words are not only not synonyms, they’re almost antonyms.

Time to get personal. I get contentment from a number of things. Having a wonderful wife. A comfortable–but modest–home. Food and clothes. A decent camera and good musical instruments. I have everything I need and  plenty of things I don’t need.

But the contentment those things provide isn’t enough.

Could it be I “can’t get no satisfaction,” either? I’m extremely thankful for all of the blessings God has provided, but do they fulfill my real goal–my desire to be important? Or at least to do something so important it will continue doing good for years after my death.

Five thousand people bought Found in Translation. Twenty-five hundred bought Lost in Dreams. I’m proud of those figures, because I want to believe at least that many people read those books and were both entertained and blessed by them. That did more than make me content. It made me feel important. Or at least that I’d done something important.

Ah, but what about The Devil and Pastor Gus? It’s been out exactly one year. I don’t have the total sales figures, but it seems likely that only a hundred copies have been sold. Perhaps fewer. And this was the novel I’d considered my legacy for future generations. I felt it had the strongest message of anything I’ve ever written–and probably will ever write. In short, that it would be my most important novel.

No matter how much the people who’ve read The Devil and Pastor Gus rave about it–it currently has a 4.4 star rating on Amazon–I’m not content. I wonder whether my best effort to accomplish something truly important has fallen flat on its face.

I could get depressed about this if I allowed myself to. But the truth of one of my original songs keeps coming to mind:

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s helping me in ways I can’t see.
God understands all my problems;
He knows my best efforts are not enough to solve them.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s renewing my faded hopes and dreams.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

I believe God’s holding me in His hands;
He’s shaping me according to plan.
Despite my fears and confusion,
He knows He provides the only real solution.

I believe God’s working behind the scenes;
He’s drawing from His limitless means.
He always provides the things He knows I need.

Maybe it’s time to let faith take over. What’s most significant ultimately is not what’s important to me, but what’s important to God. And He doesn’t have to do it my way. Or on my timetable. What a mess my life would be in if He’d done everything the way I thought they should be done!

Why should I fret about feeling important here on earth, anyhow? I’m much more desirous of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I arrive in Heaven.

What do you think? Are you satisfied? Do you feel significant? How about sharing a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger