Past, present, and future form a convenient segmenting of our thoughts about time. But three more dissimilar ideas would be hard to find. The past, where things are forever static, the future, where things are yet to be, the two linked by the fleeting present moment.
We know of the past from our recollections and from what we surmise from what we observe around us. But recollections are notoriously fickle and books interpret what the author may or may not have observed. Geology, archeology, and the stories known only through oral history are all interpreted and reinterpreted to form a picture of the past.
We know the future not at all, but spend a lot of time speculating on what it might be. Our fascination with the future is pathological for there we find fear, avarice, lust and ambition. This is the stock in trade of those who would be politically influential, as they attempt to control the future.
And we glimpse the present only fleetingly as it emerges and quickly moves into the past. In that glimpse we can experience Jesus’ “freedom and actuality,” or we can miss it as we speculate on the future.
I wrote about this freedom in my book The Boiler Room Boys in chapter 14, drawing on the Greek work parrhesia that was translated “openly” to convey Jesus’ freedom: “I have spoken openly to the world” (John 18:19). This freedom requires that you live in the present moment; its something you can see in the past, as Jesus’ used the past tense “have spoken”, and you might hope to use in the future, but which you can only actually experience in the present moment.
This was drawn from
The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, chapter 15.