Thought for the Day by Robin Fishwick
The Eternal Present
It was George Bernard Shaw who suggested that the English made up the game of cricket, because, generally lacking in spirituality, we needed something to give us a sense of eternity. Much as I admire George Bernard Shaw, I think this is unfair on the English and on cricket. More to the point, I don’t think it best expresses the relationship between spirituality and eternity.
We have been thinking recently about God’s presence, and I think today I would like to focus on God’s “eternal” presence and how that relates to how we see the present. E.E.Cummings speaks of God who “Illimitably is” and for me that describes how I understand the idea of God’s eternal presence – the presence of a God who is not limited by time
GBS’s view of eternity as a long, tedious game of cricket, going on and on and on is somehow not appealing to me. Some people might be happy with the idea of spending eternity watching cricket, but I suspect very few, even of the most hard core fans. Come to think of it, for me the idea of “spending “eternity doing anything at all is a scary prospect. Ultimately, I don’t think seeing eternity as a limitlessly long time gets us any closer to anything of spiritual worth.
Things dragging on and on does not for me impart a sense of the eternal. More likely a sense of the trivial, the boring, the humdrum. I suspect that I’m not alone in finding eternity in occasional moments rather than long hours, moments when we get so involved with the fullness of life that time ceases to have relevance. I think that may be one reason that there can be connections between prayer, mindfulness, meditation, worship and wonder.
Jesus teaches us to have no thoughts for tomorrow and that can be difficult for us. St Francis of Assisi struggled with this when working out how to feed the early brothers – he thought this prohibited them soaking beans overnight. For us, it might present different challenges; I for one worry that we get so caught up in our fixation with the present that we disregard much of the wisdom of the past and endanger the future for our children and the planet.
This, however, could be a failing to engage with that sense of eternity – seeing God as equally present past, present and future makes every moment matter equally. For most of us it is not possible to get that sense of the eternity very often, but when it happens, it helps us to notice, mark, celebrate and cherish those moments. They will help us through the barren times when we are beset by the trivial and remind us of the eternal reality that can shine through all things when we give ourselves time to look.