The Dawn of a New Year
I finally read The Screwtape Letters at the end of 2015. At one of the letters (Letter XV), I had to pause because C.S. Lewis raised an intriguing idea: that God desires for us to live in the Present and not the Future.
Lewis qualifies that God does want people to think about the future, but “just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow”. What his caution is directed at, then, is our tendency to be so fixated on attaining some hoped-for future – or averting some future we fear – that we neglect to live today the way God intended. Rather, God would have us “obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.”
Lewis goes on to say,
“[God] does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it… His ideal is a man who,having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him.”
In other words, it is our present moment-by-moment obedience to God, not even our imagination or hope about a future moment of obedience, which will have any real effect, and which should have our attention. It is for this present moment only that God can give us actual power to decide what will take take place and thus it is this present moment of free choice that we are held accountable for.