Can I Stop Rehashing the Past and Live in the Present? With Jeanne Stevens [Episode 218]

Stop Rehashing Past Live Present Jeanne Stevens

We are all looking for peace, right? When it comes down to it though, what keeps us from experiencing peace is either living in the past or living for the future. We bounce back and forth between obsessing over a past we can’t change and worrying about a future we can’t control. And the result? We miss what God has for us here and now.

But today, author Jeanne Stevens shows us the shockingly simple path to peace: Presence. She’ll help you slow down, center yourself, and ask the all-important question, “What’s here now?”

This simple question is such a practical way to find peace and purpose in the present moment. It will settle those anxious thoughts and help you enjoy where you are right now … right where God has put you.

Meet Jeanne

Jeanne Stevens is the founding and co-lead pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago, one of America’s fastest-growing urban churches. Prior to starting Soul City Church, she was on the pastoral staff at Willow Creek Community Church and North Point Community Church. She’s a speaker and writer whose passion is to help people wake up to their purpose as they pursue a life of wholehearted freedom. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Jarrett, and their two children.

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Stop Rehashing the Past and Live in the Present? With Jeanne Stevens [Episode 218]

Jeanne Stevens: All we have is this now moment, and yet most of us aren't always here. We're somewhere else. We're in the past or we're out in the future. And what I began to recognize is that if it's not happening now, it's not happening. And so I needed to get in the now moment. I needed to learn how to be here.

Jennifer Rothschild: We are all looking for peace, right? When it comes down to it, though, what keeps us from experiencing peace is either living in the past or living for the future. And what happens? We get stuck with regret over what we cannot change and anxiety over what we feel we must change. It's no fun, right? Well, today author Jeanne Stevens will show you the shockingly simple path to peace: presence. She helps you slow down, center yourself, and ask the all-important question, "What's here now?" Oh, this is some good stuff, 4:13ers, so let's get started.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hello, dear ones. We are in the closet, me and K.C., happy that you are here with us. I'm Jennifer, here just to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live the "I Can" life of Philippines 4:13. I am very pumped about the conversation you are about to hear, because this is a thing. I have to always discipline myself to be present where I am.

K.C. Wright: Same.

Jennifer Rothschild: Present where I am. Because it's easy to just constantly, like, rehearse the past and rehash it, I mean, you know, where you just go over and over things that you regret that you wish hadn't happened.

K.C. Wright: Well, and also, I'm always living five steps ahead too. There's that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: I had a friend tell me years ago, "Just be." And I say that to my mom. My mom has energy, the energy of a hurricane.

Jennifer Rothschild: She does.

K.C. Wright: And, I mean, so much so -- I'm just telling on her right now -- we'll pull up in a parking lot, my car isn't stopped and her door's open.

Jennifer Rothschild: I believe that.

K.C. Wright: She lives five steps ahead of her, and so just be. But also, you don't want to live in the past. I regret something that happened last night.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, do tell. I love other people's drama. Okay, tell us.

K.C. Wright: Here's my drama.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. What happened?

K.C. Wright: We have a meeting with our church every other Monday night. It's a dinner of close friends, and it's a vulnerable time where we plan and we pray. And, man, I'm telling you, the dinner was delicious. The conversation was just as good. And I hugged everyone goodbye and I went into the restroom of the restaurant to see that in my -- to see -- I'm sorry. I can see it right now and it's bothering me. I had a tree sticking out of my teeth. We were all vulnerable, and I talked more than anyone -- imagine that -- and I've got broccoli stuck in my tooth?

Jennifer Rothschild: And no one told you?

K.C. Wright: It was so embarrassing. Like, I have slept since yesterday, and it's still bothering me. One floss stick, I got that puppy out of there. But nobody could tell me? Come on. I did a group text. Y'all, come on, we're family. You got to speak into my life when there's a piece of broccoli hanging out of my tooth.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, that's funny. All right. Well, thank you for providing a perfect word picture of rehashing the past. Okay, but we've all got those broccoli in the teeth moments. And, dude, here's the real deal. Some of them are far more consequential and painful, and they do keep us from living in the present.

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so Jeanne's going to talk to us about that, and I just can't wait for you to hear this conversation. So let's fast-forward to the conversation and hear from Jeanne.

K.C. Wright: Jeanne Stevens is the founding and co-lead pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago, one of America's fastest growing urban churches. Now, prior to starting Soul City Church, she was on the pastoral staff at Willow Creek Community Church and North Point Community Church. She's a speaker and writer whose passion is to help people wake up to their purpose as they pursue a life of wholehearted freedom. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Jarrett, and their two beautiful children.

So let's listen in to Jeanne and Jennifer.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, Jeanne, the subtitle of your book to me is very inviting, "How to Stop Rehashing the Past and Rehearsing the Future." Okay? I love this because some of us are professional rehashers and professional rehearsers, like, we are so good at this. So I figure that your title of your book, "What's Here Now?" is a clue of the how to do this. Okay? So can you introduce us to this concept that you're teaching us in your book.

Jeanne Stevens: Yes. Well, I am right there with you, Jennifer. I am professional at rehashing the past and rehearsing the future, and I have heard many people say that we write or we speak what we most need to learn. And so this came out of my own journey of really wanting to be a person that knows how to live and receive the gift of the present moment. I love how Jesus says in Matthew 16, he says, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" And I felt like I was a professional at gaining the world and yet forfeiting my soul, and what I realized was that I was everywhere but here. I was living in the past, rehashing things that had already happened; or I was living out in the future, rehearsing all of the things that were going to happen. So I kind of lived in this tension of wanting to try to change things that had already occurred, which could never be changed, or control things that I had no control over. And what I began to realize in my life was that God was just inviting me and inviting all of us to choose to be here in this now moment so that we could live in the gift of presence with God, with ourselves, and with one another.

And what I started to really realize is that the present is the only place where we can have access to God. You know, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But we can't go back into our past and experience God and we can't go out into the future and experience God. All we have is this now moment, and yet most of us aren't always here. We're somewhere else. We're in the past or we're out in the future.

And what I began to recognize is that if it's not happening now, it's not happening. And so I needed to get in the now moment. I needed to learn how to be here. Almost like that -- you know, when you go to an airport or to the mall and you're in a new place and you go to the directory and there's that big red dot and it says, "You Are Here"?

Jennifer Rothschild: "You Are Here."

Jeanne Stevens: Yes. I needed to learn how to be here, to be here with God, to be here with myself, and to be here with others. I think we've all been in a conversation with somebody and we kind of look at them and we're like, I don't think you're here. I think you're somewhere else in your mind.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens: I think you're either thinking about what already happened or you're thinking about something out in the future, but I don't feel that you're here with me. And whenever we feel the gift of presence from one another, we feel seen and we feel loved. And that's what the human heart is so hungry for -- right? -- to be seen, to be known, to be loved. And so the only place where we can experience that is in this now moment.

And so, yeah, the subtitle "How to Stop Rehashing the Past and Rehearsing the Future and Start Receiving the Present," it really came from this gift of asking myself the question over and over and over again, "Okay, Jeanne, what's here now?"

Jennifer Rothschild: "What's here now?"

Jeanne Stevens: Can you pull into this present moment and just answer, "What's here now?"

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, you know, Jeanne, I think sometimes we avoid the present because it's painful, or sometimes it's just a mindless habit that we're rewinding and fast-forwarding all the time. But I think sometimes, too, it's worry. I think worry can cause us to not live in the present. I mean, that's such a big part of rehashing and rehearsing. So I'm curious, with your experience, what do you think some of the lies that we believe are when we're worrying?

Jeanne Stevens: Oh, yeah. I love that you ask that because there's a whole chapter in the book about worry and how worry is simply living in a not yet that is worse than your now. It's living in a not yet that is worse than your now. It's creating all kinds of inner tension in your thoughts about a not yet, something that hasn't happened, and you make it worse than everything that you're experiencing in the here and the now.

And I have found that so often the reason that we tend towards worry -- which is one of those ways that we rehearse the future -- is we're living our lives at such a rapid pace, we often have unboundaried relationships and we have an excessive and unfiltered input of so many things coming into our lives. And it's almost like, if you think about it, the volume on the speed of life is turned to a ten. It's at the highest possible volume of all these things coming in, our pace and having no boundaries in our relationship and excessive and unfiltered input. One of the things that I talk about is needing to learn how to turn the volume down in our lives. And Jesus teaches us how to do that, right? He teaches us how to do that through slowness, he teaches us how to do that through solitude, he teaches us how to do that through silence. And these are practices that we can put in place in our lives.

Part of the reason why I decided to title the book "What's Here Now?" is because it's a spiritual practice to ask a question. And one of the things that I love most about Jesus is that he spent way more of his time asking questions than giving answers. I think he asked over 300 questions in the New Testament, and I think he only answers, you know, like three. And so the thing that I love about this idea of practicing presence is it's a question we can ask ourselves over and over and over again. "What's here now?" "Am I in my past?" "Am I rehashing some things?" And usually there's some signs -- right? -- if we're rehashing our past. There's some tells that we're kind of hanging out in things that have already happened. Maybe blame is showing up in your life, you're kind of directing responsibility to someone or something else.

Maybe shame is there. My therapist and counselor often says that shame is self-hatred at my expense. And any time shame shows up, it's causing us to try to believe that we're unworthy of love. So if shame is showing up in your thoughts, you're most definitely rehashing something in the past.

Maybe there's some grief that you haven't walked through and you're holding on to an ungrieved loss, maybe bitterness and there's a grudge there, or even some guilt and there's something that you just are hanging over your head and it's keeping you from the present. Those are kind of the tell-tale signs that we're rehashing the past.

And then, as you mentioned, worry, that's one of those ways that we rehearse the future.

And denial is another one. Pretending or feeling obligation and this sense of control, those are the signs that we're kind of left the present moment and we're out in the future rehearsing something that hasn't even happened yet.

And I think all of these things, they kind of give us an indicator, like that red dot on the directory -- right? -- that we're not here, we're somewhere else. And the question of what's here now is a question to pull us back to this present moment, to be present with ourselves and with God and with one another.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow. You know, this is really good, Jeanne. And what I love about it, it's simplifying something that feels cluttery. When you're constantly asking that question, "What's here now?" it does, it pulls you. It simplifies what feels so overwhelming and cluttery. But I think also part of the reason that we focus on the past, or fixate in the future, is because we feel like the present is totally stinky. Like, it's just so hard, right?

Jeanne Stevens: Yeah, right. Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: And sometimes we just feel like we're in a waiting room spiritually. So in your book, you suggest that there are some questions we can ask ourselves if we're in a spiritual waiting room. So I would love to know what some of those are.

Jeanne Stevens: Yes. Well, I am not good at waiting. It is a struggle for me. And I'm sure I'm not alone. Many of us do not like waiting. And yet I find that -- if you read from cover to cover in the Bible, you see that almost every single person in Scripture was invited to wait on God. Right? I mean, you can just kind of move from front to back. You know, Noah had absolutely no control over when the flood would be over, so he had to wait. Joseph sat in a prison due to a crime he didn't commit and had no control over if and when he would ever get out. He had to wait. The Israelites, they waited in Egypt for hundreds and hundreds of years. David hid in a cave, waited on God. Jonah sat in the belly of a whale, right? And then you see even Jesus in the garden waiting on God. And when God invites us to wait, that invitation always includes surrendering control, and that's a deep work when we're waiting on God. And I think that many of us, we struggle with it. I know I do.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, I do too.

Jeanne Stevens: I love to try to, you know, kind of muscle my way through and figure out how to fix this, you know, and kind of give God a, like, "Listen, I'll take care of this," you know.

Jennifer Rothschild: Here's my To-Do list.

Jeanne Stevens: Don't worry about me. Here, you go take care of other things and I'll fix this.

But I feel like spiritual waiting is this beautiful invitation to release, to actually pray what Jesus taught us to pray: "Your kingdom come, Your will be done." It's this spiritual releasing. And then there's a responding to the movement of God in our lives, and then really renewing that God can do a new work inside of us. And so for me, I have found that oftentimes I like to think that the waiting room is, like, the precursor, right? It's the pre-room to whatever God has for me.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, right.

Jeanne Stevens: And yet I have found that the waiting room is the real room. There's not a room past that, it's the real room where God transforms us. There's not another door to go through, there's not another place to get to. God's not beyond the door, God is in the waiting room with us. And when we do that deep spiritual work of releasing and responding and renewing, we find that waiting is the invitation. It's the way that God brings us into this now moment so we can experience his presence.

Jennifer Rothschild: That makes so much sense in such a difficult way. Because the verse that keeps resounding through my mind in many of the things you've shared, Jeanne, is the verse where God says that he has a very present help in times of trouble.

Jeanne Stevens: Yes, mm-hmm.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so it is that presence. Why would God reserve his presence for after the wait is over?

Jeanne Stevens: That's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So to ask yourself, What can I release, Lord? How can I respond? I mean, that's just such a practical way. Because I know some of us are feeling that weight. And not just the w-a-i-t, but the w-e-i-g-h-t --

Jeanne Stevens: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- that comes --

Jeanne Stevens: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- from the wait -- right? -- because we feel the heaviness.

I'm curious about you personally. Because in your book, you share some very personal stories from your own life, from your own journey. So I would love it if you would share with us something, maybe a difficult obstacle that you've overcome, and how the power of presence helped you.

Jeanne Stevens: Yeah. I love that you drew us to that passage, Jennifer, because God is a present help in times of trouble. And, you know, so much of this question really came from my own journey of finding myself on the doorsteps of burnout and on the doorsteps of exhaustion. And what's so fascinating is that I wrote the book through the pandemic, a season when we had to be present, and yet so many of us struggled with being present.

But the question really entered my life in a season of feeling so weary and dry, feeling like I was doing the work of God, and the more I worked for God, the more the work of God was deteriorating inside of me. My husband and I, we co-pastor a church that we started out of our living room, and it is a beautiful story of people finding the transforming love of Jesus and their lives being shifted and changed and renewed and transformed before our very eyes. And our lives as well. I always like to say to our church that our mission is to lead people into a transforming relationship with Jesus, and I always say I am the single greatest recipient of this mission. It works on me. My life is being transformed.

But the honest truth was that doing the work of ministry was starting to deteriorate the work of God inside of me. I was a human doing versus a human being. And this question, "What's here now?" was a simple spiritual practice for me to try to locate myself in this present moment so that I could be with God. You know, we cannot attain the presence of God because we're already in the presence of God. And I think so many of us, we think that God is on, like, a hide-and-seek game with us, that he's hiding from us. But the real truth is that we are often the ones that are hiding from the presence of God, and we forget that all we need to do -- God's presence is always here, right? We just need to get present to his presence.

And so this question really was a way for me to pause, to breathe, to actually have a spiritual practice to ground myself in the present moment with God. And so I simply -- you know, when I ask that question, I simply just ask myself three little questions: What am I sensing in my body? What am I feeling in my heart? And what am I thinking in my thoughts? Jesus invites us to love the Lord your God with all of your heartful, soul, mind, and strength. So there's indicators in our body, there's indicators in our heart, and there's indicators in our thoughts as to where it is that we are. And when we ask those questions -- and you think about it, a child can even do those things, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, right.

Jeanne Stevens: What am I sensing in my body? What am I feeling in my heart? And what am I thinking in my mind? And it's a way to go, okay, I've got this tension in my shoulders and I have this ache in my lower back. Okay, what might be going on here in my body? What's going on? What do I need to pay attention to? And then to move to the heart space. What am I feeling here in my heart? I'm feeling excitement, I'm feeling tenderness, I'm feeling fear. This was my first book that I'm launching, right? Oh, gosh. All these feelings that are here. So much vulnerability.

And then what am I thinking in my thoughts? Okay, how can I best articulate the presence of God in my human, just feeble, non-perfect self? How can I just communicate that as best as I know how? And how can I be present in this conversation, right? And it grounds me back into the present moment.

I did it right before we jumped on our call, before we recorded this podcast. You know, I just said, God, how can I be present here with Jennifer? What am I feeling in my body? What am I experiencing my heart? What are the thoughts that are running through my mind? And I have found that one of the ways that we most regularly leave the present moment is in our thoughts. Right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens: And we don't just think our ways -- ourselves into new ways of living, we have to live our ways into new ways of thinking. And so for me, I have to remind myself, okay, not every thought you have needs to be believed. Not every thought you have is true. Not every thought needs action. Researchers say that we think anywhere from 60 to 80 thousand thoughts in a day. And so we need to be people that start to not allow our thoughts to take us captive, but we instead take our thoughts captive. And so even inviting that question, "What's here now?" and going, okay, what am I thinking in my mind, that's a way for us to take our thoughts captive instead of our thoughts owning us.

Jennifer Rothschild: This is such a good practical word, and obviously so biblical. I was even thinking at church on Sunday -- I was standing in the atrium, you know, a bunch of people milling around, and this mama standing next to me, her little toddler was just running around in a circle. I'm sure had had some candy or something. And I remember her just saying, "Stop. Stand still. Listen." And in some ways, that's what you're saying, to do that with ourselves, with our bodies, with our minds, and with our emotions. Just to stop and pause and ask that question, "What's here now?" in those three very distinct ways. And it does, it helps center us.

You know, you mentioned something, Jeanne a few seconds ago about shame. Okay? And so I know that probably awakened something in some of our listeners, because there are some who are really dealing with shame right now. I would love it if you could give some encouragement to those who are dealing with shame, they keep re-hashing that.

Jeanne Stevens: Oh, yeah. I so appreciate that question. You know, I write about both guilt and shame, and oftentimes those two are easily confused. But guilt really is the idea that I made a mistake, but shame says I am a mistake. And I think that many of us, shame becomes so debilitating in our lives. And I find it so interesting that when you go all the way back to the garden, you know, Adam and his wife -- it says after they plucked that apple from the tree, it says Adam and his wife, they were both naked, and they felt no shame before that moment. But right after they plucked that apple, they felt fear, they felt anxiety, they felt worry. They blamed one another, they hid from God, they covered themselves up. And essentially in that moment, shame entered into their stories and entered into the human being story.

And before that moment, it says they were naked and they felt no shame. And yet in that moment, when we blame one another, when we hide, when we cover ourselves up, we're essentially allowing shame to run our lives. And as I mentioned before, shame is just self-hatred at my expense. And some of the work that I've done around shame is trying to get curious around where does this shame come from? You know, to practice some healthy noticing, to pay attention to the places where we go and where we hide, just like Adam and Eve went and hid, right? The result of shame coming into their story is that they then chose to hide. So where do you tend to hide?

And then the most beautiful part about noticing our shame, naming our shame is that we then have to come into a space where our shame can get nurtured back into a posture of love. I love what Brene Brown says. She says that if we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive. So we have to notice this in our stories, we have to name it for what it is, and then we have to bring healthy nurture to it. When we put shame in a chokehold of love and when we put it in a posture of empathy and understanding, it can't survive. And the danger of isolation is that it's a greater risk of intimacy. And so when we allow ourselves to leave that space of isolation -- shame wants you to stay isolated. I know that that's been true in my own life. But what ends up happening is that when we bring intimacy -- and intimacy is really just "in to me see," right? That's what intimacy is.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Jeanne Stevens: I just want to be seen. And when we allow our shame to be seen, when we allow God to see it, when we allow others to see it, when we name it for ourselves, it can't survive because it's given the very thing that shame most wants to destroy in that we give it oxygen. We actually allow it to be seen, and then it can't have the power that it once had over us when we hold it in the dark and we hide.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's really good encouragement. And by the way, I've noticed a couple of times -- and I'm hoping our listeners have too -- you're doing some good alliteration to help us remember this stuff. Name, notice, nurture. I love that.

Jeanne Stevens: Oh, thank you, Jennifer.

Jennifer Rothschild: I love that.

Jeanne Stevens: Well, as a pastor and somebody that communicates, I am a deep lover of alliteration.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, we remember it, don't we?

Jeanne Stevens: Well, it helps me remember. Because I can barely remember where I leave my keys most days, and so I need things to help me remember.

Jennifer Rothschild: Totally agree and totally relate. That's such a good word, it truly is. I just am so anxious to read the rest of your book, I really am. I can tell there's some very practical encouragement and it is full of biblical wisdom. I can just tell. So I'm encouraging our listeners. This is just going to be such -- to me it feels like a friend sitting beside you sharing some truth. So let's get to our last question. Unfortunately, we don't have as much time here, that's why I'm so glad you wrote the book.

So our last question, Jeanne. I would love it if you could -- and very practical here. Because there's some women who've heard this that are like, okay, I need to do this, so how do I start? Do I just stop every five minutes and ask one question? What do I do? So give us some practical tools that will help us even now start to begin to practice the presence of God and be present.

Jeanne Stevens: You know, for me, when I first started practicing this question, a friend of mine told me about this little app that you can download. It's called Mind Jogger. And you can type in anything into it and you can tell it to interrupt your day however many times, and it will just kind of pop up on your phone. And so I downloaded this app, Mind Jogger, M-i-n-d J-o-g-g-e-r, and I typed in the question, "What's here now?" And I just made a commitment to myself and to God that anytime the question popped up on my phone, I would pause, I would take a deep breath, and I would just answer the question.

K.C. Wright: One simple question: "What's here now?"

Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm, yep.

K.C. Wright: "What's here now?"

Jennifer Rothschild: "What's here now?" And the three questions that help you get to that answer are what am I feeling in my body; what am I feeling in my heart, my emotions; and what am I thinking in my mind?

K.C. Wright: This is really good stuff today. I'm going to listen to it again. I'm downloading the Mind Jogger app as soon as we sign off. True story.

And we'll have a link on the show notes at to the Mind Jogger app, and a full transcript of this entire conversation. Plus -- that's not all -- we'll have a link to her book, "What's Here Now? How to Stop Rehashing the Past and Rehearsing the Future" -- come on now -- "and Start Receiving the Present."

So much for you to enjoy, our 4:13ers. Man, God is so good to us. We love you. Share this podcast with someone you know who needs to hear it. And until next week, remember this truth: you can live in the now, because the now is right where God has put you, and you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

K.C. Wright: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: (Singing) You can, our people. You can, you can. You can. You can.

You gonna make me sing alone?

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Well, I was thinking we once again -- we have been saying this for over a year now, but we need a jingle.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. But I just sit there going (singing) "You can, you can," and you do nothing. You just sit there and do nothing to help.


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