Happy New Year!
This is a time of year where everyone has the opportunity to spend time reflecting on the year that has past and setting goals or resolutions for what lies ahead. There are common resolutions of eating healthier, exercising more, getting a handle on finances. This year, though, I’ve more people making resolutions about being present.
It’s a good desire. I suspect people are making resolutions to be more present because it’s what we want or wish we had from other people. There’s no denying our world lives in this awkward dichotomy. We have the ability to send and receive information instantly “connecting” us with people around the world at a moments notice. Yet, despite this connection, many people feel as if there is a void in our relationships. We could literally be in a conversation with someone sitting across the table from us, but we’re looking at our phones. Physically present, but completely disengaged.
So what’s it look like to be present?
It looks likes changing your habits.
There will always be things pulling for our attention and distracting us. Whether it’s a text, an email, or social media – we receive tens of thousands message each day. So how can we be present with all that’s going on around us?
For me, everything comes through my phone. My phone and I have an intimate relationship. I have my personal email, my work email, five social media feeds, text messages, and even the occasional actual phone call. I’m always on the phone. I believe that’s expected culturally. It feels weird not to have it in my pocket or in my hands, but when I come home I cannot spend time with my wife or son and give them the attention they deserve if I’m constantly looking at my phone. That’s why, after a conversation with my wife I committed to putting my phone on my nightstand in the bedroom when I get home. That way I can spend quality time with my family with no (or less) distractions.
To be present means to ignore the to-do lists.
There will always be things to do. I’m not saying we should stop making to-do lists, but we cannot let our agendas get in the way of developing and cultivating relationships. When people stop in your office to chat, stop what you’re doing, close your computer, and focus on them. Give them your attention. Sure you have have about 100 other things you need to do, but the relationships we create and develop are more important.
The gift of presence is the best gift.
My family and I recently went to Sight and Sound Theatre and saw the production of “Jesus”. It was AMAZING! The music, the scenery, the way they weaved the stories of Scripture together were just incredible. There was one scene in particular, though, that struck me. It’s a scene from Mark 5:1-20 where Jesus and his disciples are on a boat headed towards the Gerasenes. When they arrived they saw a man who was possessed by many demons. It’s a story I’m familiar with and I love. Some of the disciples didn’t want to go (and I can understand why – who wants to go to a graveyard?) but what tied it all together was the song the disciples were singing. They were singing how Jesus goes after the sheep that has strayed from the rest of the flock. While some of the disciples protested about going here, another disciple said, “You’ve already forgotten, haven’t you?” “Forgotten what?” replied a disciple. “You’ve forgotten when you were the one”.
Dang – that cut deep. Jesus practiced presence. He lived it. He could’ve done anything he wanted, but instead he sought out those who were lost and hurting, spent time with them, cared for them, healed them, and loved them. Jesus focused on relationships. He gave people the gift of time, the gift of presence. He loved them and valued them and he loves and values us.
I’ve begun to see there is no greater gift than the gift of presence. So put your phones down. Stop what you’re doing. Spend time focusing on the relationships that matter most. Practice the gift of presence with God by spending time with him and in his word. Practice the gift of presence with those closest to you and you will begin to see, learn, and value them just the way God does.