Text: Exodus 8: 8- 10a
Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Pray to the Lord to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “Kindly tell me when I amto pray for you and for your officials and for your people, that the frogs maybe removed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” And he said, “Tomorrow.”
The biggest dread for me as a schoolboy was when the reports were distributed and parents were called. I consistently showed bringing low marks was an art that only few could manage. My mother tried to smile at the teachers who had nothing good to tell about me. My mother gave that look which would make time freeze and silence deafeningly unbearable. On our ride back somebody had to break the silence. And I took the initiative by saying “I will sincerely start studying from tomorrow. I will not keep things for the last moment.” But from experience mom knew that tomorrow was a comfortable land that I loved to live. Exams and semesters came and went but my trend to put things for tomorrow continued with some wonderful consistency. Reading John Ortberg’s “God is Closer Than You Think” I found I had a close associate who too lived in the mystical land called “Tomorrow.” Moses is challenging Pharaoh to free Israelites and God sends a series of plagues for Moses to have a bargain. And frogs were all over the land and the palace of Pharaoh was run over by frogs. What do Pharaoh’s magicians do? They create more frogs. How intelligent? It is here that Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron to pray to the Lord to take away the frogs. He decides he has had enough with this nuisance. Moses obliges and asks him when to do the needful. Pharaoh without a blink blurts out “Tomorrow.” Tomorrow? In all possibilities he has been sleeping with the frogs jumping all around. When he was about to take a second helping of food,the frogs jump out. Frogs rule the landscape. I am sure he was seeing frogs in his dream as well. And when the moment to deal with it is here where all the frogs will be gone, he waits. He waits for tomorrow. He settles for another night with the frogs for company.
We too are like Pharaoh. Instead of taking a decision or dealing with a problem, we would prefer to sleep with the frogs, hoping that miraculously the frogs will disappear tomorrow. Why do we do this? Why does the present moment elude us so much? Why don’t we deal the problem when we are faced with it? In psychology this is called motivated irrationality where people tolerate and maintain faulty behavioural patterns that will destroy their lives. It is the inability to deal with the moment that we encounter. The encounter of the Rich young man shows us this problem. He was meeting Jesus to know how to earn eternal life. He knew Eternal life is tomorrow. It is in the future. It is way distant from now. But Jesus asks him to sell everything that he has and follow Him. The rich young man was interested like us in the abstract attraction of tomorrow. But Jesus demanded he do something right now. Take a decision this moment. But the Young man wished to sleep another night with the frog. But the most important time is now. If you are having a problem with someone, the time to resolve it is now. If you have hurt someone and you know you are wrong, let us be honest. Passing of time will never heal the wounds. Gather the courage and say sorry now. If your life is going in the wrong direction and more often than not, you know it, the time to act upon it step by step is now. If you are contemplating on making a decision and this decision is big, the time to make the decision is right now. This very moment is God’s irreplaceable gift to you. This moment matters the most because this moment is where God is.If you are going to be with God, there is no need to wait for a perfect time or day. You must be with him now, in this moment. This is the day of reckoning. Today is the day to act. Therefore the Psalmist sings “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalms 118: 24). Jean Pierre de Caussade coins this very beautifully by calling it “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.”Sacrament is defined as “means of grace.” It is where ordinary objects like water in baptism and bread in Eucharist , becomes the vessel for the extraordinary, for the divine. Similarly Caussade says that each moment of our lives can be a sacrament, a vehicle for God’s love and power. “ The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams, but you will enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith.”
In our busy lives even prayer is kept for tomorrow. Prayer is believed to be done when one has no other recourse and all the options are beyond us. But prayer is inviting God into the present moment to partner with us. As we move burdened with the enormity of a problem, believing that by delaying to act upon it, things will change ,is foolishness. Prayer is developing the patience where we listen to God telling us ““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11: 28- 30). But the invitation to do it is now. One always feels that growing closer to God is somewhere in the future. “When this phase will get over I will be at peace.” “When the children have grown I will have time tostudy the bible.” “Once I retire I will have more time for mission and Church activities.” And we continue to sleep with frogs in the night, always waiting for tomorrow.
Naveen Alex is the son of my favourite teacher in the Seminary, Rev Dr Alex Thomas. Naveen has had to deal with the horrors of ragging when he was a student in a college in Chennai. But he dealt with it very positively. After passing out he got a secure job. At the same time he used to take workshops for school children and guide them. Once when we were chatting he told me he was contemplating on quitting his job and do full time mentoring of children who need guidance, focus and direction in life. His focus was teenagers and therefore he formed a group called ‘TeensMAD’ (Teens Making ADifference). The next I knew was he had made the decision and followed his heart. He truly is making a difference as a Mentor, Resource Person and Animator. He is an inspiration for the childrean and youths alike. When he was faced with a decision he did not wait for a secure time and security of tomorrow. He just took the plunge. I know it is not easy but encountering God in every moment is an act of surrender. We do not need to sleep with the frogs but by surrendering to God we can take our decisions in the present moment. The time to act is now.
More than a meditation, this was a dialogue with myself. I have problems with surrendering to God. I have problems making decision in the present moment. I would rather procrastinate it till it vanishes. Prayers always are the last resort for me. If this is the case with you also, join with me in the meaningful prayer of Charles de Foucauld.