Life is not lived in a vacuum. We are not islands unto ourselves. We belong to one another.
I feel that it would be an over simplification to say that the goal of being present to God and of being present to ourselves is to be adequately prepared to be present with other people. The fact of the matter is that these three things are concurrent with and inform each other. Our experiences of being present in one aspect, help us to do the same in other aspects. That is to say, one is not more important than another. What good is it to have an awesome prayer time only to find ourself holding ill feelings toward a loved one. Or, have an amazing sense of self awareness, only to be oblivious to those around us. It is all inter-connected. It all matters. It all takes practice. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
I came across a story earlier this week about an American WWII soldier who, in realizing his own feelings, thought of his enemy and how to reach out to him. You can watch him tell the story below. You can also read a fuller exposition of it here.
The reason I share this story is for us to realize that our lives are not our own. Our practice of presence may at some times seem mundane and at others amazingly significant. The idea of being adequately prepared to be present is not in storing up preparation, but rather the practice of presence itself. Instead of seeing ourselves as a reservoir, maybe we should see ourselves as a stream. Our experiences form the channel through which presence flows. It is a picture of strong weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Our strength is not found in the ability to hold on to presence, but in the presence that flows through us. (If you have ever tried to wade across a stream, you will know what I’m talking about.) The strength of presence comes from spending time with God, having a healthy sense of self awareness, and taking the time to be with others where they are at.
My hope is that as we step into the practice of being present, we will find that it is a grace not only for others, but for ourselves as well.
Grace and peace,