I know a woman who used to watch the news religiously. She would get caught up in the latest mandate, scandal, or expose until it took over all her waking hours. She obsessed over these stories until she was so incredibly anxious, she forgot how to live.
A few months ago, she found out her husband has cancer. All the energy she used to spend on the news, she now spends caring for her husband. Although it is a scary and stressful time, they are both surprised to notice the absolute power in being present to the moment.
The worries about politics and pandemics are gone. It is clear what is most important: each other.
The thing is, this was always true, but now she is forced to live in the present moment of doctor appointments and chemo and naps and each other.
It has been in this slowing down, in putting away work lists and turning off the news, that my friend has discovered how to live again. In the present moment, she has found God. She has found his presence in this time. Strangely, instead of the anxiety she felt before, she has found peace.
Franciscan friar Richard Rohr has noticed this phenomenon. He writes that, “Western people are goal-oriented…we can’t imagine doing anything that won’t get us something.” Sometimes, once we take away the busyness, we discover God has been there the entire time. Rohr says, “God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. As we take another it means that God is choosing us now and now and now.”
This is what my friend is noticing. She can no longer stress about the past or worry about the future. She must depend on God for each breath she and her husband take.
I think of that time the disciples were caught up in a furious storm. Waves were breaking over the boat, and they were frantic. Jesus was there. He is always there. He was sleeping while they ran around frenzied. I imagine the disciples running into each other, bailing water overboard like something out of an old slapstick comedy or cartoon. Then they woke up Jesus. I imagine them clinching his robe, yelling, “Don’t you care that we are perishing!?” In response, Jesus got up and told the waves to be still. The wind stopped, and the sea was calm. “Why are you afraid?” he asked the disciples. “Have you still no faith?”
Have we just been running around in a frenzy?
God is always here with us—even now, in this present moment. This is where we are supposed to be. In storms, in cancer, in pandemics, and in naps, God is here. Breathe.
In this present moment, pray.
As you inhale: I will not be afraid.
As you exhale: You are here with me.