It seems that Saint Augustine believed that only the present is truly, fully real to us. It is in this infinitely tiny instant that we think, speak, act, or fail to act. Only in the present do we interact with others and our environment. Here alone do we laugh and cry and dream and pray. The present is where we love and hate and live and die.
The great Bishop of Hippo invites us to recognize that once our past is indeed past, it can only become real to us once more when we, through memory, make it present in some fashion. Similarly the future, though we are always free to speculate about what it might be, only becomes real when it passes through the needle eye of the present moment. The thread of time passes through this eye of the needle ceaselessly throughout creation, for time is really nothing more than a measure of change, and change is only proper to finite reality.
With all of this in mind, I can't help but revaluate and critique the way I often behave with respect to the passage of time. How frequently do I waste countless hours lamenting mistakes or longing for easier days? How often do I neglect the present by daydreaming and planning the "perfect" future? So much reality is wasted in fantasy, for the past is finished and the future is coming one way or the other by the grace of God.
With regard to the past, I suppose I have much maturing ahead of me before truly I believe as God speaks. We are told to confess Christ as Lord, to repent and believe, and to accept with full confidence the unyielding love with which God cleanses us. He told us that his blood would redeem us and that all who truly believed in him would have power to follow the Commandments and to be made whole.
If you're like me, you may face this conundrum. Why then do I so often apparently refuse to forgive myself? If God's mercy is as powerful as he claims, then I am truly forgiven of all sins when I repent of them, most perfectly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The word reconciliation has a Latin root that evokes the breathtaking intimacy of this reality, for it literally means to be brought "eyelash to eyelash." Refusing to accept this beautiful mystery is tantamount to picking a spiritual scab. The healing will never quite be complete so long as I insist on tampering with it. Indeed, I may forever mutilate the wound by doing so.
With respect to the future, I have long been inclined to try and plan each little aspect of it. Indeed this appears to be one of my characteristic sin tendencies and I'm afraid I have not seen much improvement in this regard over the past 20 years in many ways. But why should I so brazenly assume such omniscience and omnipotence? Is it because I know myself? If so, who am I in thirty years? How many times did I live Christ's life authentically and show love to my neighbor in that time? How has my soul been distorted by further sin? When will my part in this Great Story end?
The honest truth is that I am not this story's author. I am merely a character. The greatest irony of all perhaps is that I'm not even the main character of my own life. I have a distinct nature and role to be sure, one that God admires and values so much He thought it was worth dying to redeem. But anyone who loves literature knows that a character can oftentimes be wrong about himself (Scrooge? Sydney Carton? Dr. Jekyll?). The author sees the end first. Poe wrote this way. He saw the ending first, then he wrote the story as a road leading to a necessary destination.
Heaven is our intended destination, for it is the word we give to describe the state of true human fulfillment. Time is merely the conveyance, what T.S. Eliot described as a "river". Many of us walk varied roads but all subplots eventually converge. All threads in the tapestry mingle and interweave. I, like so many before and so many yet to come, must learn to have confidence in God's providence. I must trust the Author of Life. The masterful author of my life and all others' lives is the loving Father, the sacrificial Brother, and the guiding Spirit, and his story is rooted entirely in the love that he himself is by nature.