11 Jan The Gift of Presence
I sit in my office this morning, fingers poised over the computer keyboard, awaiting words and inspiration and more words. Because nothing is coming, at least not yet, I am suddenly aware of the loud cacophony outside my window: horns honking, a man yelling, something that sounds like a large truck idling at the stoplight (it turns out to be a garbage truck). People are obviously busy and in a hurry, some working, others perhaps out and about on errands, and still more headed to who knows where?
I wonder if they are aware that as they move from Point A to Point B, God’s grace surrounds them? Are they conscious of the fact that the Spirit of God is working in them and around them and that God’s breath is sustaining them each moment? Do they realize that every person they interact with today is made in the image of God and therefore should be treated with dignity, respect and kindness—including themselves?
This kind of awareness seldom comes naturally to us. The pace of life is fast and unless we are constantly multi-tasking, we feel that we are falling behind. The unintended consequence is that we often fail to hear or see what is literally right in front of us. We tune things out, intent on our own thoughts and responsibilities. We are oblivious to the life happening around us and especially to God’s presence in it. It is all too common for someone to wake up and realize that years—or decades—have gone by in a blur, with varying degrees of satisfaction with what one has to show for how those years have been spent.
The antidote for this is not popular. The words “discipline” and “consistency” are words that more often than not produce a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs. If discipline and consistency were easy, gym memberships wouldn’t be soaring this month and diet books wouldn’t be perennial best sellers. Our closets would be organized and the mail wouldn’t be stacked a foot high on the kitchen countertop. We would never lose our patience with our children and we would spend time praying and meditating each morning. Even by suggesting such things, we start to sound delusional.
Thankfully, the grace of God is active in our lives and in our world whether we are aware of it or not. We can go through our days oblivious to that grace and God will keep right on being gracious and loving. But I have discovered that my day goes very differently when I am tuned in to God’s presence. I am more peaceful and less stressed, even though my schedule is no less crammed. I am more thankful and less worried, even though my responsibilities haven’t lessened. I am more engaged with each person and situation in my path, rather than looking past the immediate because I’m already thinking several steps ahead on the day’s agenda.
Being more aware of God and self and others allows me to savor my days, rather than just survive them. I actually taste my food, hear the traffic outside my window, notice the winter-white sky. I listen more intently and enjoy my conversations with others. I don’t treat people as “interruptions” but instead, look for the “God-moment” that is arriving by surprise on my doorstep or over the phone. Perhaps for some people, this kind of mindset is effortless, but alas, that is not the case with me. I have to work at it, practice it, and that takes discipline. But when I make even a small step towards greater mindfulness of God’s moment-by-moment presence and grace, I feel more authentically human than when I am blind to anything but myself.
I want that. Not days that fly by in a blur, but days that are alive with joy and purpose and that are well-lived, invested in something that is bigger than myself. So, I keep at it. And, like having a gym buddy that keeps me showing up on days I’d rather stay in bed, the church is God’s gift to help me stay the course. Community is essential to developing and practicing a perceptive eye to God’s grace. We cannot do it alone because we are not made to do it alone. And, I’m really grateful for that.
Yours for the Kingdom,