It’s a motto, a saying, a pop song, a ballad, and even a movie. We’ve heard it so many times its meaning has dulled.
I’m referring to the phrase “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Ever used it? As a child, this framed saying—complete with a delicately embossed rose—greeted me across the sewing/guest room at my grandparent’s family farm. I don’t think a visit passed without my pondering the deeper meaning of these words.
Even when I was young, I noted the difficulty of living in the present, living each day as if it were your first. And your last. But since these words are backed up by many Scripture verses such as Psalm 118:24, James 4:13–17, Philippians 3:13, and Romans 8:18, I also know it’s the truth.
While we know we shouldn’t live in the past, things get confusing when these ideas about the present are contrasted with the words of John 12:25, John 17:16, or Luke 21:33. Instead of encouraging us to live each day to the fullest, they teach us not be too attached to our world or our lives here, because they are temporary. So, what are we supposed to focus on—our present or our future?
The answer is both. Although it sounds like a paradox, the key is learning to balance the reality of today with the hope of tomorrow, making decisions today knowing they will affect your tomorrows and help prepare you for what’s to come.
Think of it like the parable Jesus relates in Mark 13:34–37. Imagine you’re housesitting for a friend and have been trusted to take care of the plants, pets, and yard but have no idea when your friend will return home. Since you don’t know when they're coming back, you don’t get too comfortable. You take care of the house, you wash your dishes, and you tidy the bed each day so everything is in order, just in case your friend returns that day. Although you’re presently taking care of the place, you know at any moment they will return and you will leave.
Is it possible to live in the present while being mindful of the future? Yes! The real trick is figuring out how to live in the present without getting too comfortable, so you’re ready to go just as soon as it’s time.