A number of years ago I came across a children’s book that was an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s short story “The Three Questions.” I believe they are very meaningful questions for our spiritual journeys, posed by a man who went through a deep spiritual crisis that transformed him from aristocrat to spiritual leader. This week is the first in a three-part sermon series on those three questions.
(For the full video version, click here.)
In Tolstoy’s story, a certain king believed that if he knew the answers to three specific questions he would never fail in anything. The three questions were:
When is the right time?
Who are the right (or most important) people?
What is the most important thing to do?
So, he extended an invitation to all the learned men in his kingdom to come to him and answer the questions. Many came, but there was one problem… they all had different answers. And the king didn’t believe any of them.
- To know the right time, one must have a plan, drawn up in advance and follow it strictly.
- It is impossible to decide beforehand, but pay attention and do what needs to be done.
- To know the right time, one must have the advice of others to help them figure it out (specifically magicians!)
Of course, as happens in these stories, the king goes to see the old hermit, who has very little to say, but helps the king to learn for himself the answers to the questions. For this first question, the king learns that the right time to do things is NOW.
I wracked my brain to try to find a Bible passage that might address this, didn’t have much luck. Then I recalled Mordecai’s comment to his niece, Queen Esther, “Who’s to say? – you may have come into the royal court for just such a time as this.”
If you know the story, you know that Esther is the new queen of Persia, greatly favored by the king. When her people, the Jews, are threatened with annihilation, her uncle Mordecai implores her to act, even though she has kept her ethnic heritage a secret, even though she risks her life by approaching the king without being summoned. But, Mordecai says, it is this moment, NOW, that is important. Perhaps you have found yourself in this place and in this time for this purpose.
What if we adopt Mordecai’s statement just a little… what if we each come to each moment “for just such a time as this”? What if there is something special that awaits us at each moment if we’re willing to reach out and grab it, or risk, or seek? What if the Spirit is constantly nudging us toward being open to the possibilities, opportunities and experiences of each moment?
I know we’re used to hearing about living in the present moment with awareness as part of our spiritual path. And I completely agree that cultivating that awareness of life, our feelings, our reactions and behaviors is important, and is part of dwelling in the NOW. The other piece is LIVING in the now. Not letting opportunities pass us by, but rather risking, sharing, experiencing, loving, forgiving BEING all that we can be in this one wild and precious life (as Mary Oliver says) that we have.
For those of us who are procrastinators, or who like to think things to death, or those of us who are worriers or planners, this whole concept may be challenging. Eighty-five year-old Nadine Stair talks about what she’d do if she had her life to live over again.
If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
you see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else- just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.
If the important time is now, then we shouldn’t waste it!
I think about my dad who is 76 and seems to spend most of his time in front of the computer. I truly hope it makes him happy, but I am afraid he’ll get to the end of his life and say, “I wish I’d traveled more… I wish I’d spent more time with my kids and grandkids… I wish I’d painted more or had more ice cream…”
Now is the right time.
Now is the time to tell someone you love them, you forgive them, you’re sorry.
Now is the time to watch the sunset, to help your neighbor, to stand up for what you believe in.’
Now is the time to open to a process of healing yourself.
Now is the time to begin investing in your spiritual journey.
Now is the right time.
These are the questions we need to ask ourselves: If we had our life to live over again what would we do with it? What if we have come to this moment for such a time as this? What wouldn’t we put off until tomorrow? What is the Spirit nudging us to do?
Love & Light!