My wife and I recently updated our wills. More accurately, we had our attorney create entirely new wills. The dusty previous versions were drafted when our children were much younger, and no longer remotely resembled our present circumstances, or theirs.
As the responsible grownups we imagine ourselves to be – and having witnessed too many friends and family members pass away without having done any decent estate planning – we decided it was time for a reality-check and reboot.
It took an entire Saturday to organize all the information the lawyer required, and the process of compiling everything was a lot like spring cleaning, with our assets tidied up into neat compartments.
That in itself felt like quite an accomplishment, so I rewarded myself by indulging in a pizza and an old movie (yes, I’m a party animal). But my bigger takeaway was a renewed appreciation of how quickly life forges ahead and how transient my time is on this planet.
Typically, one day morphs into another without much fanfare, each filled with routine and the occasional challenge and delight. Not that I’m not focused on the big picture, but many are the days I awake rather startled to realize another month has flown by without my permission, and I still haven’t started on the Great American Novel.
I’m naturally wired as a forward-thinker, but much of my advance planning has more to do with my work and all that’s immediately in front of me, and less so with the scope of my whole life and everything I want to experience and accomplish before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
I’m a firm believer in living in the moment. But working on our wills reminded me that my focus should expand to a more intentional shaping of the sum of my days and not merely be content with the result of their daily accumulation.
It’s the difference between driving down the highway and keeping alert for the next exit, and spending the journey imagining the destination. I’ve been guilty of doing too much of the former, and not enough of the latter. But I believe I can and should do both.
One common way of thinking about the differences between Eastern and Western spiritual traditions is their respective attention given to the present or the future. For instance, it can be argued that Buddhists are more interested in the now, while Christians tend to look toward the future. That’s a simplistic understanding, I know, but I often see those emphases presented as competing worldviews.
I don’t buy into such sharp distinctions. I believe there is plenty of space in anyone’s life to have one foot firmly planted on the shore of today, while the other is dipped into the river of what’s to come.
Maybe with new wills neatly stowed away for that inevitable day when the stuff I’ve accumulated finds a new home among people and causes that matter to me, I can better focus on getting on with the bigger dreams this gift of life is waiting for me to unwrap.
The Rev. David Green is pastor of Salem Church in Doylestown. His recorded Sunday messages can be found at salemstrong.org or davidgreen.me.