A couple of weeks ago I was sitting with a friend who was sharing Rome advice with me over mid-afternoon Cap Bar drinks. Midway through our conversation, she mentioned the importance of staying present while you’re in Rome, not getting so caught up in school that you miss the blessing of the current, irretrievable moment. Her advice made me reflect on the beautiful moment I was currently experiencing, sitting outside with her on a beautiful afternoon, and the gift of who she is and her friendship in my life.
Moments like these, when I’m talking to a friend and am suddenly struck by the gift of who they are or am looking up at the sky between the trees on a beautiful day, are filled to overflowing with God’s grace. These grace-filled moments always make me rejoice in God’s goodness and generosity. This semester I’ve been thinking a lot about living fully in the present moment and receiving every moment gratefully from God, even the difficult ones.
Nothing happens apart from the will of God, so unless we are rebelling against Him in sin, each moment in our lives is exactly how He wills it to be. Furthermore, since we receive every moment of our existence from the hands of God, each moment is also a gift from Him. When we are able to recognize that each moment is a gift from God Who has lovingly crafted it for us according to His will, what can we do but accept the moment’s particulars as evidence of His love?
Of course, accepting the moments which don’t go according to our plans is difficult. Yet, as a dear friend told me earlier in the semester during a spontaneous conversation over tea, the “ideal you” or the ideal moment doesn’t exist outside your head. You only have how the moment really exists with all its seeming imperfections.
I have found great freedom in fully embracing the present moment and accepting God’s will in exactly how things are, rather than constantly striving to live out some imagined vision of perfection. When I fully embrace the moment I’m living and consciously accept it as a gift from God, that’s also when I experience it most fully.
That’s when I notice the grain in the wood of the bench I’m sitting on, the birds chirping in the trees, and the sheer goodness of God in allowing me to be alive today. Embracing the moment as God’s gift brings a heightened awareness of both its details and its value.
This heightened awareness can be as difficult as the daily inconveniences, though. I’ve had countless moments where I’m sitting in class and suddenly realize how tired I am. It can be tempting to pretend to myself that I’m not tired, but it’s more fruitful to accept my tiredness as part of the gift God is giving me.
How is being tired in class a gift?
Saints such as St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina spoke of suffering as a priceless treasure and a valuable gift from God. Saints have also said suffering is a sign of God’s great love for someone since they are allowed to be like Christ in that small way. Thus, experiencing some small suffering or inconvenience — such as being tired in class — is an opportunity to unite it with Christ’s sufferings and to rejoice that God allows us to be like Christ.
Receiving each moment as a gift from God leads to embracing it with joy and gratitude whether we are embracing a cross or embracing the joy of the spring breeze in the treetops. It’s not easy to accept the daily crosses God gives us, but doing so is very worth it.
This attentiveness to the moment results not only in noticing its details, though, but also in noticing the people in it.
I will often be in the middle of a conversation with a friend and be suddenly struck by their beautiful soul and what a gift their presence in my life is. I also find people are usually profound reminders to stay rooted in the moment by being fully present to the conversation I’m having, even if it’s just small talk with an acquaintance from class.
I have never once remembered to be fully attentive to the person I’m speaking to without also being struck by the presence of their immortal soul and deep dignity. People are a beautiful gift, much more so than birdsong, because beneath each person’s eyes is an intricate, God-crafted soul and He loves them. God loves them and placed them in this moment with me, so for His sake, how can I help but love them as well?
I can only say that striving to live attentively to the moment I’m in and embracing every detail of it — whether that detail is the texture of a brick wall, being late to class, or the eyes of a friend — makes life so much more worth living. When I accept every moment as a gift from God, I am better able to appreciate each moment and live it in love for Him. And that makes life into a beautiful adventure.