On Fridays, I lead a guided meditation/centering prayer type activity at the college where I serve.  Today, I had drafted a reflection where we pondered how our “present self” is rooted in our past and shaped by our future hopes and dreams.  I was very careful in the words and presentation not to overly script what people reflected upon in our shared silence, and yet I was striving to have the group focus on “the good.”  I dislike rosy perfectly painted pictures, but I also recognize that a 15-minute online group meditation is not the place to trigger past traumas and ask people to think about such a thing quickly and then move on.  I think I achieved a decent balance of asking the group to focus on the positive (the events or people in their past which gave them a foundation for the present and then the dreams that they aspire to.)  In all my preparation and overthinking, I scripted the meditation without actually practicing it myself before our online gathering. 

So… today as I led and guided the group, I was also trying to participate as best I could.  Reflecting on the past was a joy.  I’ve recently been watching a 1989 videotape of a church talent show led by our Pittman Park UMC youth group.  Seeing my friends on stage, hearing my own high school voice, watching my dad and I play a piano duet, and seeing so many older adults who were key figures in my childhood have all been inspirational as I’ve watched the talent show.  (I hope to get some clips captured on my phone and uploaded to share soon.)  That old VHS tape made cherishing the past an easy exercise for me today. 

Then we spent time in the present, with intentional breaths and body awareness.  That’s always beneficial.  Then, we moved to consider our future.  I asked everyone to picture and imagine their hopes and their dreams.  But… my mind immediately went to my fears.  Dementia.  Loneliness.  Loss.  Lack of control.  I was able to visit mom in her dementia-care assisted living yesterday for the first time in a long, long time.  So the realities of dementia and how it affects us was front and center in my mind.  While others likely pondered their retirement, travel dreams, grandchildren, and things like that… I worried about finances, plans, the pressures on my children, and the environment I might someday live in.  There is so much I will lose.  But then …

… time was up, and I needed to bring the group back together for us to share the beauty of how our past and our future are gifts to us in the present.  Whoa.  That was a hard conversation to lead.  But others shared some very beautiful comments.  One colleague, a professor, now works in the very same office where he once came to “get help” from his professor when he was a student at R-MC.  Now, it’s where he sits and prepares and reads and inspires and helps his current students.  The very same space where he offers help to others is the space where he once received help.  And do you know what he focused on when he pondered the future?  Not his own pleasure or goals, but the achievements and gifts of his students going on to do great things in the future, how they might help others.  His contribution to their successful futures is his future joy. 

Ah, yeah.  It’s not all about me.  If a successful future is all about my pleasure and my personal goals, then no one with a terminal illness or a degenerative disease can find hope in that future.  But if our hope is in something greater… that (to use Bishop Ken Carder’s words) if we are all a story within God’s greater story, then there are powerful and beautiful chapters ahead even if we have dementia or cancer or anything that affects our bodies and minds.  Our Spirit remains sacred and beautiful.  And… our relationships continue.  And the impact of lives well lived can go in reverberating in those we lived among.  As my colleague was focused on the futures of those he has taught and inspired, so I, too, can choose to focus on the futures of my children, my church friends, my students, and my community members.  Suddenly, the future doesn’t seem so bleak.  In fact, it is full of possibility and beauty.  And I can be a part of that future, because, as I was trying to help others see today, our present is intrinsically connected to our futures, just as our past is connected to our present.  How I live today is interwoven with the fabric of my future.

It happens so often, when I’m asked to lead, I am led.  Thanks, friend and colleague.  Thanks, Holy Spirit.  I’m moved and motivated to live well and to trust the One who holds us in the palm of His hand.  Suddenly, the future is looking bright! 

5 thoughts on “Reflecting upon the future

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