By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church –
Eight Years Old
My dad was a Tobacco farmer, and I remember one morning, when I was about 8 years old, he gave me a chore. He took me out to a newly planted field of Tobacco. When the plants were about 12 inches in height, they had been transplanted from the seedbeds into long narrow rows. These rows of Tobacco were just wide enough for a tractor to straddle so it could plow around the plants to remove weeds and distribute plant food. Sometimes, as the tractor was moving along the row, it would cover up some of the Tobacco plants. My chore was to walk down these rows of newly planted beds and uncover any Tobacco plants that had been covered up by the tractor plows. My dad gave me the instructions and left. It sounded simple enough.
Everything was going fine until the saboteurs arrived. The small field I was working in was heavily wooded on 2 sides with very large southern red oak trees. These ancient giants were the home of a large community of squirrels. It was early summer and the new baby squirrels were out in full force. They were creating a lot of distraction for an 8 year old. They were practicing their new climbing and acrobatic skills by chasing each other from one set of trees to the other. It was quite a show.
You would normally only get this level of expert entertainment at Cirque de Soleil. I got so absorbed in their “death defying” high wire act that I not only lost all interest in my chore, but also did not finish it in the time my dad gave me. In fact, it took me several days to do what should have only taken about a day. My dad was not happy.
Pictures of my children
As an adult, I often miss those days of living in the moment. As I got older, I found myself to be the complete opposite of that 8 year old in the field. I became too “mature” to notice the small miracles that were going on all around me.
When we moved to Florida, my children were barely in their teens. I remember packing up photographs that had hung on the wall in our home in South Carolina. Looking at those pictures of my children taken on birthdays, losing a tooth, riding their first bike, playing in their first snow, I realized I couldn’t remember the details. These were monumental events in the lives of the most important people in the world to me. And then it hit me.
I wasn’t there.
When these precious moments were taking place my body was present, but my soul was not. I was too distracted with my work, my success, my dreams or my issues. I was either focused on the perceived pain of my past or the new goals and dreams of the future. I had lost the gift of living in the present moment. I had gone 180 degrees in the opposite direction. I was totally focused on everything but the only thing we have that is real.
Go watch the squirrels
Saddened by this discovery, I spent some time with my heavenly Father. I asked him how I could have missed so much. He said to me, in a kind and peaceful way, “You are my son, and one day you will truly understand what it means to live forever. You can choose to live as I live, one moment at a time, just like you did when you were 8 years old. Only fear of the unresolved or the unknown will cause you to judge each moment of your life as good or bad, instead of as a gift from me. Stop judging the gift of life I gave you, and enjoy it, moment by moment.”
All I knew to say to Him was, “Thank you. And please help me get back part of the 8 year old me that I can’t seem to find.”
He said to me, “Go watch the squirrels.”
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
(Selected from Matthew 6:25-34NLT)
Slow down, live in the Now and remember, Be Life Giving!
And always remember…Be Life Giving!
From the book, Life Giving Prayer, by Alex Anderson, due out December 2012.
Alex Anderson is a Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church in Bradenton, Florida.
Connect with Pastor Alex at http://belifegiving.blogspot.com/