Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Absolutizing the present

Photo by Penny Mathews of sxc.huThe other night my friend, who’s also a Jesus Army leader, experienced the worst meeting of his life.

It was truly appalling. A fellowship meal without fellowship, a love feast without love, he’d left it with his heart in his boots, wondering what the point was. Why go on? Did anyone else care at all?

That spiritless meal with those who were supposed to be his deepest comrades in the cause of Christ, left him feeling bereft of hope. So much so, he went into a room, lay on his face and cried out to God. “Why, Lord?” he cried. “Why, oh why?”

As a believer in quick and prompt answers to prayer, he shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when just four days later, his little church group had one of the best meetings he’d ever experienced. Fellowship flowed, love was abundant, spirits soared.

Photo by Penny Mathews of sxc.huAll was well and all manner of thing wast well; my friend went to bed a happy man that night.

Telling me about both meetings the next day, we both chuckled at our ability to see no further than the immediate circumstances, good or ill – particularly as leaders who do, in fact, care a great deal about our churches. How easy it is to measure our entire reality by what has just happened, by how things are right now.

A mentor of mine calls this “absolutizing the present”; being unable in that moment – be it of agony or ecstasy – to conceive of reality being anything else ever again.

I’ve often called to mind his wisdom, and sometimes it’s saved me from spiralling down into cynical hopelessness, prompted by some discouraging incident (or, for that matter, soaring off into the stratosphere over something encouraging, which can be as unhelpful in the long run).

Of course, the account I gave earlier of my friend’s two meetings was exaggerated. But that’s the point. Our feelings do exaggerate things: they absolutize the present. We have to be disciplined with our feelings at times (as my wise mentor also says, “Emotions make good servants but poor masters”). We must learn to keep some poise.

Sure, that Friday wasn’t so good. But Sunday’s coming. Oh – and that Sunday’s followed by a Monday.

In the final analysis, it’s probably not nearly as bad – or as good – as it seems.


Rachel said...

Very true. Hard to get to grips with, but essential if you want to grow up.

pierscjc said...

Absolutely the best blog ever! Bang on. Exactly what I think! Well today anyway.

s0upy said...

I guess absolutizing the present could be slightly better than absolutizing the past, but that's a different story. Although I wonder what absolutizing the future would be like...

Good blog post. :-)