12-step recovery meetings often involve sharing by members about their ‘experience, strength and hope’; that is, their a) experience in addiction, b) strength in recovery, and c) hope for the future. It naturally lends to a temporal framework of past, present, and future. We remember the insanity of our addictive acting out, we communicate the practical things we did, which we keep on doing, to get better, and we look forward to how things can continue to get better.
I want to focus on the present dimension for this post. For a long time, I have often been suspicious of a ‘live in the present’ type language and focus. ‘Be here now’, or ‘just be’ were phrases and concepts that annoyed me. I valued the tradition, history and wisdom of the past; and I had a clear focus on working, aiming and striving for the future goal. But I was weak on the present.
I’ve come to see that, in addition to these healthy appreciations for the past and future, I need a generous awareness of the value of the present moment. The crucial point is this: The present moment is the only one I can truly act and live in.
I used to ache over the past, and I think I tried to change it in really unhealthy ways; like the dishonesty of extremely minimized confessions to various people, which gave me a deluded feeling of having dealt with it. Also (and this is just crazy) I can recall many times, when I was incredibly tempted and on the verge of acting out, that I would rationalize to myself by saying “Go ahead and do it now, and you can change later. One more time won’t matter that much.” And that right there is a perfectly awful example of how I was emptied of my power to act in the present. I self-sabotaged my ability for self control.
The serenity prayer can be read in this light as well.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the past and the future.
courage to live in the present moment of now.
and wisdom to know that’s all I can do.
This reminds me of Titus 2:11-14 where we can see [at least on the surface of the text, and more clearly I’m sure if I knew Greek verb tenses!] the same past, present and future framework:
11For the grace of God has appeared [past] that offers [present] salvation to all people. 12It teaches [present] us to say “No” [present] to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live [present] self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait [present] for the blessed hope—the [future] appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself [past] for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are [present] his very own, eager to do [present] what is good.