Present-Tense Prison

Present- Tense Prison



Our morning devotional drove home my thoughts on impermanence this week. Walter Brueggemann’s book Gift and Task focused on a passage in Joel this morning. Joel is a prophet in the Old Testament who had a vision of locusts devouring nature and humanity. He called for the people to mourn not outwardly for others to see, but to turn inward observing images and feelings of a broken heart. Joel hopes that God who is gracious, merciful and slow to anger will see their hearts and leave a blessing even if the locusts must come first. All that the people can remember is world power upheaval: wars, destruction, and little by little all the people were scattered “to the ends of the earth.” Right before the time of Joel, the temple was destroyed and the last remnant of people were carried off into exile. Life as they knew it was one bad dream after another, so they could not imagine God bringing a blessing.
Then, Joel delivers these beautiful words as words of hope, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”
Brueggemann points out that the people are “trapped in a present-tense prison.” I think I can identify with this prison. Either, I am experiencing so much joy while cuddling on the couch with my family that I never want this present moment to end OR I am suffering greatly with my hip/leg pain and can’t see any way that things could change. “Present-tense prison.” Your prison may be things like hoping that the high that we are feeling in Houston after the Astros won the World Series will never end or thinking that American politicians will never be able to reach across the great divide and work together. You may be content with the church as it is today and can’t imagine the church ever needing to change.
Walter Brueggemann says this, “All will depart the prison of present tense. As God ‘restores the fortunes,’ there will be enough freedom to forgo old habits and old biases, old certitudes and old comfort zones…God’s intent has not succumbed to our precious status quo.”
All things are impermanent….even this present moment. In my yoga certification, I am practicing the art of being more present in my day. I am meditating to let go of my thoughts about the past or the future and just “be” in the moment. I see a tendency in myself to hold tight to the present moment because I am focusing on letting go of the past and not reaching out for the future. Where do I anchor myself?
As I reflected this morning, the difference is subtle. I want to be present in this moment in such a way that allows good things to come and go or suffering to come and go. I see myself sitting in meditation with palms faced upward. I am not grasping or clinging to anything. I accept what is offered to me at this moment with open hands knowing that my job is to keep my hands open allowing the offering (pleasure or suffering) to slip between my fingers.
“All will depart the prison of the present tense.”

What is your present-tense prison?

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