Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6-7
I have always been something of a planner, a person who looks ahead out into the future and plots, much as a chess player considers several moves forward in the match, considering a multitude of what-if scenarios. I assume this is my personality, the result of a natural inclination, but I suspect this must have been shaped by my early career as a financial analyst responsible for developing multi-year projections based on various forecasts of the future. What-iffing with some level of accuracy became my calling card and it was how I differentiated myself in that particular profession.
I have always been something of a planner. Sometimes, this is a good thing. Sometimes, it’s not.
I’m going to focus on the latter, that is… when it’s not such a benefit to be so attentive to the future. The future is an unknown entity and although we can sometimes predict the coming course of events with some measure of confidence, we often simply cannot. A few years ago, did anyone predict a coming global worldwide pandemic? The unexpected happens, so we then what-if alternate emerging possibilities, trying to prepare ourselves for the most likely future outcomes. The more we consider these possibilities, the more we can be prepared for the unexpected, or so we believe.
I’ll speak for myself only here but planning ahead too much can pull me out of the present moment, make me less in the here and now. As a result, as my mind wanders toward future possibilities, I can easily lose sight of present realities. One of the reasons I enjoy photography as a hobby so much is because it forces me to consider the present moment. It demands that I look and see, notice, and as I consider various compositions for photographic capture, I can’t help but be mindful of the environment – my senses picking up on the sights, sounds, and smells of the moment. I find it blissfully impossible to what-if the future while standing in nature with a camera.
I have been thinking about this as we consider the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and recall that Jesus gave, as a gift to his followers, the enduring presence of an Advocate, one to be with them at all times. Much of our faith is focused on the future and it’s easy to what-if a cause and effect dynamic whereby we expect that if we lead good lives and adhere to the lessons of the Gospel, then we will be rewarded with eternal life. Recall, however, that Jesus frequently spoke of the Kingdom of God as being in the present, not merely as a future possibility. I believe that Jesus was reminding his followers of the importance of not being so wrapped up in the cause and effect, but rather to celebrate the beauty and power of the present moment. So much of his teaching was about loving one another, forgiveness, service and sacrifice. In the here and now.
The Holy Spirit is here and now. This is the gift Jesus gives to his followers and to each of us. As we consider Pentecost, let’s stop for a moment and be present, mindful of the Advocate’s presence in our lives. I have often focused my own prayer life on the Father and the Son and have been less sure about how to pray to the Spirit. Just as a camera helps me to slow down and be in the moment, I am finding prayer to the Holy Spirit to do the same thing with my interior life.
The Spirit is here. And now. And that is quite the gift.