I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, said it, or sung it, but I still have problems getting its truth from my head to my heart, from my worries to my faith, from tomorrow to today. It’s Psalm 118:24 — “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In our “get-on-to-the-next-thing” culture that is dominated more by the watch than the calendar, more by “next” than “now,” this truth is hard to practice.
For some reason God wants us to pay attention to today. It’s okay to look back, and it's okay to look forward but not if it costs us today. That’s too high a price to pay. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The psalmist is not the only one to shine the spotlight on “today.” Didn’t Jesus teach us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”? Didn’t the apostle Paul tell the Ephesians and us to “redeem the time,” that is, make the most of every opportunity we have? And that always begins with today.
Though I’m better at doing this now than I was in my younger years, it’s still a struggle for me. That’s why every now and then I pull a little story from my files to remind me to claim the day. The story, parable, or whatever you want to call it was written by Robert Hastings a number of years ago. It’s called The Station.
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is a vision—an idyllic vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent. We’re traveling by train and, from our windows, we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures, of smoke pouring from power plants, of row upon row of cotton and corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our conscious minds is our final destination—for on a certain hour and on a given day, our train will pull into the station with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true, and all the jagged pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. So restlessly, we pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, cursing the minutes for loitering, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station …
“Yes, when we reach the station, that will be it,” we cry. “When we’re eighteen! When we buy that new Mercedes Benz! When we put the last kid through college! When we earn that promotion! When we pay off the mortgage! When we retire!” Yes, from that day on … we will all live happily ever after.
Sooner or later, however, we must realize that there is no station, no one place to arrive once and for all. The joy is in the journey.
The station is an illusion—it constantly outdistances us. Yesterday’s a memory; tomorrow’s a dream. Yesterday’s a fading sunset; tomorrow’s a faint sunrise. So, shut the door on yesterday and throw the key away, for only today is there light enough to live and love. It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it’s regrets over yesterday and fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are the twin thieves who would rob us of that golden treasure we call today, this tiny strip of light between two nights.
“Relish the moment,” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
Yes it will. So in the meantime enjoy, survive, endure, and/or relish the moments day by day. There’s God’s wisdom in that. But don’t miss this important distinction. It is not, “Live for today”—as if there were no tomorrow. It is simply: “Live today.” As someone once put it so well, “The past is history; the future is mystery; today is a gift—that’s why we call it the present.”
Do yourself a favor and open that present today.