I remember my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Knudsen, taking roll each morning to tally our attendance. We would raise our hand and say clearly, “Present!” when our name was called from the list, signifying that our day at school had now begun. However, there were mornings when my hand rose, and my mouth spoke, but my heart and mind were elsewhere. I was anything but present.
While circumstances have changed, I still find myself proclaiming my presence while not really experiencing it in the moment. It happens at work, in conversations, at home and even during prayer. I am elsewhere. Thankfully, we are assured that God does not suffer from this malady; He is ever present, at all times and in all places.
It causes me to wonder if this is something I am supposed to reflect in my own life. If this is one of the characteristics of my heavenly Father, shouldn’t I try to be like Him? When I show up, do I truly bring all of myself to the moment, or do I do whatever will get me by?
In today’s world, it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are more connected and present with others because of the vast amount of technology we buy for that purpose. We email and text and chat and call at home and work and play, thinking this brings us closer together. I believe that just the opposite is occurring. It is all breadth and no depth. With each email, phone call or text message we convince ourselves that we are strengthening our connections when in reality we are becoming less and less capable of being present in the moment.
It is not that technology is evil or a tool of the devil; it is that we do not develop the discipline of presence in our society. And it is a discipline. Or maybe it is better to say that it is the result of other disciplines. We have to make ourselves be someplace, to focus our will on what is at hand. How many marriages suffer from “You never pay attention to me” syndrome? How many drivers have near misses or cause accidents because they were on the phone, putting make-up on or wandering around in their head to a song on the radio? When was the last time you found yourself going through a list of things to do during prayer at church?
I want to learn how to be present, to be fully engaged in my life as it is happening in the place that it is happening, immersed in what God is doing. This series will explore ways for us to become better at being present in the moments of our lives. I hope that you find the upcoming posts useful and edifying.