This Present Moment


A week ago this very hour, I had been in one surgery suite, Rachel in another. It felt like a century ago. And
yet, I hadn't moved very far. I was still under the same roof as back then.

Around three o'clock, Linnaea commented to me, "You know, David, you always seem to keep the lights down low in this room. And you speak very softly. You play your music very low. Everything's really subdued.

"Is that the way you want it to be? It seems like you're trying to reduce the sensory input as low as possible."

I opened my eyes and looked around. She was right. I was consistently limiting the outside stimuli.

"I guess you're right," I said to my sister. "I hadn't noticed."

"At the same time, your sense of smell is incredible. You can point out every smell in this room! I only smell 'hospital.'" We talked about whether my limiting my visual input had heightened my sense of smell, like apparently happens with some blind people.

I kept thinking about this after she left the room. I remembered what one of the counselors had told me earlier in the week, that it is helpful in processing grief to write things down. "You don't have to be organized or profound," she had said. "Just start putting down whatever comes to mind."

I decided to try it. For the first time in a week I picked up a pen. I pulled out a legal pad and started writing. I intended to list my fears.

He's coming after me again. Or someone like him. Or another traumatic situation. How do I stop them? I can't stop them.

But then as I got going, my words morphed into something much different—a description of how I had normally coped with difficulty.

I have a secret place I go when things get bad. It's an imaginary world without properties, size, dimensions. It can be whatever I need it to be.

I've been hiding there since Dad and Mom started fighting [back during my childhood]. Now, that [place] has been destroyed. Thoughts are flooding in. I can't stop them. My refuge is destroyed. I've been trying to patch it up, but it isn't working.

I don't want to leave my world. I'd have to open my eyes and embrace this moment. And if I do, I will barf, and I will retch, and I will wail, like I wanted to do when I was a little boy. "Neverland" has been burned and pillaged. I'm lost and can't find my way.

I need to open my eyes to this present moment, but I'm afraid. . . .

I laid down the pen and meditated on what I had written. I knew it wasn't a brilliant self-analysis by any means. But it was accurate from my own personal perspective.

"So what do I do with this, God?" I prayed. "Does this have any significance?"

In that moment, for the first time in a week I sensed communication with God. I felt as if He were saying to me, I want to bring you out of this dark spot. You need to say good-bye to Neverland. Close the door. Leave that imaginary place. Come with Me."

"Where are we going?"

I'm taking you into Me.

"What do You mean, Lord?" I countered. "I'm already one of Yours."

I want to take you to a place you've never been before.

"Where's that?"

Right here—in the present moment. You haven't really seen Me here. There's a beauty, a completeness, and a richness in the present moment that you haven't experienced, and I want to show it all to you.

I lay there pondering what this might mean. "Well, okay, God— what do You want me to see?" I said.

I need for you to open your eyes.

I followed His instructions. Then God seemed to continue:

The next person who walks through your door, receive as fromMe. And the next. And the next.

I wasn't so sure about that. The next person to come in, I said to myself, would probably be a nurse with a needle wanting to draw more blood! Or some reporter sneaking in. "God, I don't know that I can do what You're saying."


Presently a nurse came in for a routine check on me. She didn't have any needles this time. She just did her job, and before leaving, she added, "God bless you."

A simple word of blessing. Here in the present moment.

I decided God's leading wasn't so questionable after all. Maybe I should keep my eyes open more. Another hospital staffer came in, and then a third. Every exchange turned out to be positive.

Whenever I felt nauseated, I would focus on the clock or the black towel dispenser on the wall, instead of closing my attention inward. I kept looking outward. To my surprise, I felt more in control, more uplifted.

At nine o'clock that evening, I received my usual anti-nausea shot, which also had the side effect of making me drowsy. I settled down for a night of sleep. But then—

An hour later I was wide awake. How frustrating. I began to squirm. My mind was racing. If I didn't get this sleep thing straightened out soon, how was I ever going to get back on my feet?

After 15 minutes, I hit the call button. The overnight nurse who responded was named Janet.

"I can't sleep again," I said. "This isn't working. Give me something to knock me out, okay?"

She moved from the foot of my bed up to the side and looked down at me. She thought for a moment. Then she said, in her lovely Jamaican accent, "Mistuh Wukks, I can give you sleeping pills—or you can overcome it right now. What's your choice going to be?"

I was startled. "What did you say?"

She repeated herself. The word overcome struck me.We had decided to include a song called "Overcome" in thememorial service, because we viewed the girls as overcomers. There is no way Janet would have known
that. "Mistuh Wukks, you can take sleeping pills, and this process will go on for weeks. Or we can overcome this tonight—right now."

I didn't know what to make of this. "Okay, uh . . . what does 'overcome' look like?" I finally asked.

"We will get you up out of bed," she answered, "and then we will go for a walk. We will walk as long as you want. Then we will come back to the room—and you can do whatever you want—whatever you would do if you were home and couldn't sleep.What would you do there?"

"Oh, I'd probably get up and work on the computer."

"Then you do that here. There's no pressure to sleep. You don't have to do anything. But you can overcome this problem right now."

I got up, and with Janet's help, I walked a lap through the now empty hallways. The longer I walked, the more my head seemed to clear. When I finally got back to my room, I sat down in the recliner rather than climbing into bed. I started reading. I didn't go back to bed until 11 o'clock.

The next thing I knew, it was four in the morning. I had slept five hours straight. My first thought upon awakening was Oh, no, it's not morning yet. I need to get back to sleep. But then I remembered Janet's words. I told myself, Wait a minute—I don't have to do anything. I can just lie here and relax. I can meditate on God's goodness in the present moment.

In fact, I didn't go back to sleep the rest of that night. But I didn't stress about it. By morning, I was feeling very good. I thanked Janet for her wise counsel. I ate a portion of breakfast.

And I was never nauseated again.


We are finding that it is healthiest if we concentrate on the individual day right in front of us. In earlier years, we spent too much energy living for the future. We couldn't wait to see the unfolding of our larger mission. The future was going to be so much better than where we were at the moment, we told ourselves.

Now we're moved to live in the present. This is where God is— right here, right now. This is where He intends to pour out His grace. This is the day that counts. Tomorrow, as Jesus once said, "will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34).

When the phone rang back in early January and the voice on the other end asked us to come to a lunch meeting with the Murrays, we gulped—and then told ourselves, "Okay, this is apparently what God is asking of us today. We thought it would happen later. But we need to recognize God's leading in the present moment."

Living in the future is called, in our particular church culture,"being prophetic." Some days I think I feel more pathetic than"prophetic." All I need to do is manage today, be a caring husband today, be a good dad today, be a productive systems administrator today. This is where God intends to use me and bless me as His servant. He wants
me to be content here.

I still deal with anxiety at times, I admit. I wouldn't necessarily term it post-traumatic stress; it's just the sensation that life is getting too busy, too jammed, and I can't juggle all the decisions that are calling for my attention at once. I'm learning to say, "Okay, I've had enough for now. Stop. I don't have to make all these decisions immediately." If it ends
up costing me a little more money, so be it.

When my chest and diaphragm tighten up, I can still hear Cheri the nurse saying into my ear, "Breathe, David, breathe! In through the nose, out through the mouth!" I need to settle down, clear my brain, and get back in sync with the God of the present moment. This, I know, is the healthy way to live.

Gone In A Heartbeat, pgs 106-110, 208-209