A while back, I read a book entitled The Heart Of A People by Moshe Avraham Kempinski. In it he tells the story of his father, who fought in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. Five Arab states had attacked Israel following the United Nations mandate which granted her statehood. This is how the story goes:
“My father’s army unit had been told to hold that hill and try to block the advancing Egyptian army. They were a small group of soldiers who had been fighting for days. At one point, they realized they were running low on ammunition.
“As bullets were whizzing above their trenches, my father pulled out some chocolate and began handing it out to the others in the trench. The others told him that he was going crazy. They told him that now was not the time for chocolate. He supposedly smiled and explained to them that they had done what they could in the battle. Life and death are in the control of the Higher Authority.
“He told them to take a piece of chocolate, say a blessing over it, and enjoy the sweetness of the moment.
“He and the others in the trench were destined to enjoy chocolate and taste its sweetness for many more years.” 1
The author’s point in telling this story was that some people are constantly waiting for some future event, their whole life fixated upon it. Others are stuck in the past, and what might have been or what they have done.
What we should do, Kempinski maintains, is learn to live in the Now, to taste the sweetness of the moment.
This simple anecdote has been a blessing to me. I’ve been trying to learn how to do just that … to live in the sweetness of each moment. I haven’t mastered it, that’s for sure. It’s hard to break the habits of 58 years … of either anticipating some new thing, or looking back at some former experience or stage in life. For crying out loud (my Dad loved to say that), I still have dreams about high school, and what might have been if I was not such a dufus! But I also have to say that I’ve caught myself on several occasions enjoying the “right now” much more than usual. I like it.
As I’ve thought more on these things, I’ve remembered the fact that the Christian gospel grants us the possibility of living this way … to the max—should we choose to do so. Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and promise to return for us enable us to live well in the present.
Concerning our past: Jesus died for all of our sins, therefore we are forgiven. For those painful events in our pasts, He provides healing, redemption, and the means to make some of the wrongs into rights. Our past is dealt with by our Savior.
Concerning our future: We are promised eternal life. Jesus assures us that He will come again and set up His kingdom, and that we (true believers) will live and reign with Him forever. Our futures are guaranteed by our Savior.
That leaves us with the present. Since our pasts our dealt with, we don’t have to live there. Since our futures are assured, we don’t have to panic, freak out, or be anxious. We confidently expect Jesus to do what He’s promised. We’re good to go in the area of our future. So now we’re free to just abide, to love and be loved right now!
I love this idea, which I know is also an ideal. But it’s also profound, and I need to learn it.
I remember being impacted years ago by a bumper sticker on the back of an old beat-up hippie VW bus. The message read: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
It hit me hard. Wherever I went, I was usually in five other places. When in a conversation with someone, I was anticipating my next responsibility. When in a moment, I was trying to live in other moments, real or imagined. This was not a good thing in my marriage, with the rest of my family, or in ministry. I was finding it difficult to enjoy and live in the present tense.
I had a hard time just being. Like a great friend of mine likes to say, “God didn’t make us human do-ings, He made us human BE-ings.”
That’s what I want to be more of … a human be-ing; one that can take in the goodness of God and then give it away to those around me.
Thanks for reading … and pass the chocolate!
1 The Heart Of A People, pp. 23-24 (Moshe Avraham Kempinksi, 2006 Shorashim of the Old City Publications)