Growing up, I often dreamed of living in another time and place. Some long to live in the future, fascinated by imagined and fantastic things that might someday become possible and common-place. I, on the other hand, always felt like I was born too late, ill-fitted for life in the present age. The quixotic past I envisioned living in was safer, slower, less technological and complex.
It’s easy, after all, to romanticize the imagined past and the dreams of the future when you don’t actually live in them. It’s far harder is to live well within the messy and difficult realities of the present.
Many things make me want to live in the past, but the recent rapid rise of digital information technologies has been especially instrumental in increasing this nostalgic yearning. The explosions of tech innovation and the accompanying breakneck pace of cultural and academic alterations in teaching have disoriented, dumbfounded, and discouraged me. The methods and means of education are changing so rapidly, I wonder if I’ll be able to finish my career as a professor if I cannot quickly adapt to these relentless and radical technological transformations.
I frequently catch myself thinking, “Perhaps if I was born about fifteen years earlier, I would not have to worry about all these changes. I would be approaching retirement and could let younger generations figure it all out.” But if my health and mind hold out, there could many years of teaching opportunities ahead. God has been reminding me that like it or not, I will have to face these challenges in the here and now. And when you really think about it, what other time do we have to live within but the actual present?
I suspect that many have wrestled with the longing to escape the difficulties of today by wanting to live in the future or the past. And while we can certainly learn from the past and look to the future, God still calls us to live well in the present—the exact time and place in which He has chosen us to live and move and have our being. As such, none of us were born too late or too early.
As Mordecai reminded Esther, we were born for such a time as this, created at just the right time for God’s sovereign plans to be revealed and fulfilled in and through us. I doubt Esther wanted to risk her life to save her people from extermination, but it was the time and place in which God had positioned her. That moment gave her the opportunity and responsibility to live well in the present. She accepted it with courage and used it wisely.
If we are willing to embrace with faith and joy the place and time in which God has positioned us, and if we are willing to live—really live—in that actual present, I suspect God will grant us many opportunities—big and small—that we alone are meant to accept and fulfill. They may or may not be, like Esther, life-risking, nation-saving endeavors, but in the here and now of God’s purposes and plans they still matter immensely nonetheless. May we therefore attend to and live well within the present prospects God grants us so long as it is still called today.