I have shared before about how I love the question posed to the women that arrived at the empty tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24) That simple question reminds me to be mindful of how I can have a tendency to get stuck in things, thinking patterns, or scenarios that do not bring life. I can easily look for the living among the dead.
I had a season of feeling very lost and confused about a few “What’s next?” aspects of my life. So I decided to start reading a story about a group of people that had massive “What’s next/Now what?”..the early followers and believers of Jesus. Starting at the end of Luke, as I moved into Luke’s second letter, Acts, I noticed another question:
From Acts 1 – “After he (Jesus) said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?”
Both scenes, two brightly clothed figures ask confused and/or wonder-filled starers, “Why are you looking…for the living among the dead/into the sky?”
I am a dreamer. Sal loves (sarcasm) to hear my new idea, or something I want to start, or something I want to try, whatever the latest thing to catch my attention. That’s even why you’re reading this, cause I’m trying to see if someone can be a pastor while not working officially for a church. But sometimes my dreams or new ideas or next-thing can make Sal tired. Not because he doesn’t want to encourage me, but because I can sometimes drag my amazing family along for some random and distracting seasons, not really counting the cost before running off with an idea.
I think dreaming ahead and cherishing memories have their place in our lives. I think of them like gifts, momentary journeys that are either no longer here, or not a reality yet. I don’t think we are called to forget, and I think we are encouraged and spoken to through the things that spark our ideas and ignite our dreams. But when those things, searching among what is already done or gazing into what is not, compromises our actual present, we need to reorient. We will actually always have to redirect our attention. Staying present takes effort and practice.
I don’t hear these questions from the the random visitors with any condemning tone. It makes total sense for the women to be looking for Jesus in the tomb. Why would they have thought he would be anywhere else? If I am standing with someone and they start to float off into the sky, I am going to be looking at the sky, and even when I can’t see them anymore, I am going to still be starting up there wondering what in the world just happened. But I can’t keep looking there. I can’t stay stuck in the past or aimlessly pressing into the future. And these questions gently remind us to be attentive to God’s work in the present.
Certain personalities are more gifted at naturally staying in the moment, others of us, relive old stories or fantasize of a life we can’t seem to create in our present. The question is, do you know yourself well enough to recognize when you are searching among tombstones or lost in the clouds? Can you tell when you aren’t seeing what is directly in front of you? Are you honest enough with yourself when fondly recollecting has shifted to being frozen in time? If your dreaming is damaging your present, can you be brave enough to redirect your attention?
There are amazing things to remember and wonderful dreams and goals to pursue, but your reality is now, and you don’t want to miss that either.