The real life is elsewhere, I convince myself, and I simply forget to live.
Jacque Philippe writes this line in Searching for and Maintaining Peace, and I had to set the book down when I read it. It was April 2020 when I came across that thought- my belongings were split between two cities, my friends were scattered across the state, and most of my hours were being spent in front of a screen. Like a lot of the world during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, my life started to look a lot different on the turn of a dime. Throughout the first few weeks and months of staying stationary, I found myself making plans for “when life gets back to normal” and saying “when real life starts back up again” in conversation. In doing so, I communicated the fact that I did not think the present moment was worth my time, effort, or love. I robbed the current reality of its rightful title and handed it over to some picture-perfect future that did not actually exist.
Of course, it is honorable to hope for good things to come. It is healthy to acknowledge loss. But despair can twist those natural reactions into blatant lies.
The real life is elsewhere.
I am just now beginning to realize that I have lived that line like a motto long before the changes of this year came in full force. I have always been enamored with the past (long hours have been spent in antique stores thumbing through old postcards), and I easily place past moments on a pedestal. It is an undeniable blessing to have lived in places and with people that make the past so rosy. But when I let my affections for what has been get out of hand, my “elsewhere” is established in years gone by. Likewise, I often deny the actuality of the present moment by putting things off to the future: I’ll start forming that habit once I’m a real adult… I’ll start donating once I have a real job… I’ll make sure to invite them over once I have a real house.
What a tragedy it is to deny the reality, the capacity, and the divinity of the present moment; it is here that the Lord calls us to live.
“As to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy, the future to divine Providence. Our task is to live holy the present moment.” - St. Gianna Molla
Saint Gianna Molla, a twentieth century wife, mother, and professional, reminds that life abounds in present circumstances. Especially near the end of her life, Gianna had every reason to put sainthood off until another time. A tumor was discovered in her uterus as she was pregnant with her fourth child; refusing the complete hysterectomy recommended by doctors would endanger her daughter’s life. As a mother to three and a practicing physician, Gianna made a difficult choice in her hard reality which resulted in a healthy daughter being born. Like Gianna, we are each called to embrace our current situation with the utmost love possible. By participating in the fullness of life Christ has planned for us in the present, we can communicate our trust in His will and thanksgiving for His favors. Maybe that means putting your phone down during conversation. Maybe that means looking at the Mass readings before you’re sitting in the pew so you can engage with the Word more intentionally. Maybe that means finding creative ways to be generous with whatever income you might have at the moment. Whatever the case, we are each called to encounter the present moment as a gift, and to trust that it is what Christ has carefully planned for us. It is here and now that He desires to become fully alive in each of us.
Nowhere is this truth made more evident than in the celebration of the Mass. When Christ becomes present in the Eucharist, salvation history and eternity are tied together and experienced in the present. It is nearly impossible to watch the Body of Christ being placed onto my hands without some notion that Heaven is touching earth. He transcends what I know of time and space simply to enter into my current reality. If He is willing to come to me in the current state of my humble soul, why do I go off in search of some better meeting place? I am- we all are, for that matter- the tabernacle that the Lord has asked to dwell in right now… for eternity. He has been with me in the past, He holds my future in His hands, but He is walking with me, quite alive, in the present.
“Real life is right here”, He whispers. It is here and now that He asks me to live.
Kathryn Hurd is a senior studying strategic communications and anthropology at K-State. She's a maker, a walker, a butterfly-spotter, and a lover of a good children's book. You can read more of her words, ramblings, and random interests here.