There is Only This Present Moment

­I’m trying to trust in God. My husband has had chronic fatigue and chest pain for the five years since his quadruple bypass open-heart surgery. Sometimes less discomfort, sometimes more, but always there. His various doctors have tried everything to relieve his distress…but nothing works. He is suffering, and it naturally pains me to see my beloved enduring this suffering without hope of relief. So I talk to God, saying (as if to talk myself into trust):

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

I live with a chronic form of leukemia that suppresses my immune system, so any “little” sickness I catch could mean the end of my life. I’ve had pneumonia twice in the past four months Both times it was healed by antibiotics. But I’m aware every day of living on the edge. So I talk to God, saying:

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

There are countless beauties in my life. Loving friends and family. Congenial neighbors to stand outside and chat with. The two-year old twins that I play with once a week (as long as they’re healthy!): grandkids of good friends who mind the kids while their parents are at work. My parish community. The companionship of my husband: we talk at dinner about the books we’re reading; after dinner we knit as we watch our favorite news show. I treasure all these beauties but am aware of their fragility. So I talk to God, saying:

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

The national political scene is the very opposite of beautiful. Ever since January, it could hardly be more ugly. A pathologically narcissistic President. The very concept of a “common good” in shreds. Of course I call my Senators and House member regularly. But I also need to talk to God regularly, saying:

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

When I say this, I’m in fact praying it. It’s a prayer that somehow God’s presence in each moment will bring goodness out of what appears to me as evil. It’s a prayer of trust—and for trust—in the God whom Thomas Merton called “the hidden ground of love.”

As I sit here writing, computer on my lap, I try to sense God at the very core of this moment. So I sense the universe as an infinite sphere with divine love at its center, radiating goodness. Or I sense the universe as a child cradled in God’s love. This love isn’t just a caress; it’s a power. A force for transformation.

So even as the white supremacist’s car rams into the crowd of protesters, killing one of them, God’s transformative love is somehow in that impact. We’ve already seen some of the transformation: people all over the country coming into the streets to rally against hate. It’s then that I can say to God confidently:

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

I confess that there are moments when I have trouble saying this to God. Moments that seem unredeemably evil. The deaths in Houston’s floods. The nearby chemical plant’s explosion caused by the flooding. My friend losing her grandchild to a sudden, unknown illness. Another friend losing two daughters to cancer within five years.

Systemic injustices: ICE apprehensions and deportations of Central Americans who have lived in and contributed to our society for twenty years; the deep poverty in which most people in the inner city of my hometown live; the arrest and sometimes killing of people whose only crime is Driving While Black; bail set too high for people in poverty to pay, so they are doomed to a “debtors’ prison” while awaiting trial; the family near my neighborhood being evicted from their home because the bank 2,000 miles away refuses to renegotiate their mortgage… and I could go on and on.

But I could also say that God is present in the wide-ranging resistance to these and other systemic evils. When I join a rally against ICE’s persecution of farmworkers in my community, I can truthfully say to God, thinking gratefully of the rally’s organizers:

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

My husband has created a graphic novel exploring his lifelong experience of white privilege. Some people in our community are planning how to use it for discussion groups on white privilege. When I think of these people, this planning, and the book itself, I can say to God gratefully:

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

Just now my husband came downstairs to where I’m typing. He checked to see if the laundry was dry, then got an apple from the fridge to eat and popped his head into my room. “I love to see you writing,” he said, and went back upstairs. I’m basking in what seems the miraculous blessing of this moment. In awe, I talk to God, saying:

There is only this present moment, and you are at its core.

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Peggy Rosenthal writes widely on poetry as a spiritual resource. Her books include Praying through Poetry: Hope for Violent Times (Franciscan Media), and The Poets’ Jesus (Oxford). See Amazon for a full list. She also teaches an online course, “Poetry as a Spiritual Practice,” through Image’s Glen Online program.

Above image by it was what it was, used with permission under a Creative Commons License.

"Thank you for this stunningly beautiful and deep piece. How peaceful and insightful. It will ..."

Lucia in the Dark
"This is an absolutely gorgeous piece.So honest and searing. Thank you."

The Chopin Stitch

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