The Gift of Presence
Do you find yourself rushing from one obligation to another, with hardly time to take a breath in between? Friend, life is short. While you may not be able to cast away every obligation, you can learn how to find the ESSENTIAL elements of your life with today's blog post, "The Gift of Presence." It's one of the greatest gifts you can give and receive.
“Give thanks to The Lord! Call on His name! Make His deeds known among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him! Talk about all His wonders! Glory in His holy name! Let those seeking The Lord have joyful hearts! Seek The Lord and His strength.
Always seek His presence.”
A few years ago, as I wrote this devotional, I was on a return flight to Nashville, Tennessee from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. There is something about getting away from work, home, routine, and responsibilities that allows us the opportunity to step back and observe our lives from a different perspective.
So often, when we are caught up in the daily demands, we can lose sight of purpose and meaning in our lives. We want to be useful to God and make a difference, and it is easy to overlook the ordinary for the extraordinary, the mundane for the magical, and the simple for the spectacular. Yet, I have found, it is in the ordinary moments, the mundane of the daily routine, and the in simple – and often unexpected – that God meets us and shows us Himself in meaningful ways.
We all have seasons in our lives that tend to be fuller with activity or commitments than others. Such seems to ebb and flow. And it’s when we step away from what feels like the essential in our daily lives that we actually see what is essential. What’s essential? People are. Relationships are. God’s Word is. Yes, our jobs-and homes-and paying bills-and being at the game or recital and running a household and on the list goes of all our responsibilities, which are also important. But all too often we can place a higher priority on all of this than in spending time with God Himself, just seeking His sweet presence in those 60 diamond studded minutes within every 24 golden hours. And perhaps, also in spending time with those we love, encouraging one another in our journey, and serving those who need to see and feel God’s love in action. What matters will cost us something, though. It always does.
My husband and I took a week to go visit Esther, a dear friend of mine and her family. Esther, a gifted pianist, and I met in 1988 at rehearsal camp in Santa Barbara, California, for a Continental Singers tour/mission trip where we were part of a group of 35 musicians and techs ages 16-28 from all over the country and world. We spent the next 3 months sharing a bus with 36 others, traveling all over the United States and Europe, performing in concerts every night, staying in host homes most nights, and praying, praising, playing, and growing together as a group. Our friendship has stayed alive over the years because we invest time by not only in staying in touch, but by visiting one another every few years.
The trip cost 2 days for travel, a significant amount of money for airfare, vacation time, some lost wages at work (paid time-off maxed), and the hassle of going through customs and security each way. Yet seeing Esther’s face again, being in her presence, sharing our lives and friendship as we picked up where we left off from the visit 4 years prior, was worth all of that in a heartbeat. Cards and letters, Skype or Facetime, and Email cannot replace being in the presence of another.
Added to that sweet friendship is another generation. The pure delight of seeing her oldest daughter, age 6 (as I write this – age 2 when last I saw her) and meeting her youngest daughter, age 3. Hearing little feet running across the floor, a child’s voice call out, “Auntie Jen!” small, soft arms around my neck, the trusting hand in mine as we walk, and the simple joy in playing together - put all the other responsibilities I have in my life into perspective rather quickly.
I realize I get too stressed too easily about things that just don’t really matter: traffic and my commute, deadlines and demands at work, keeping house, groceries and meals, training a puppy (okay, that’s a whole other story!)… the details that fill my days and nights. And all it takes is spending time in the presence of loved ones to help me remember what is lasting, meaningful, and important. Mix in time and conversations with her husband and mine, her parents, family and friends and presence goes even deeper in quality and meaning.
There is no price tag that can be placed on the time and sweet moments together. One thing that has meant so much to me over the years is that Esther has invited me into her life … her family, friends, church, routine, commitments, the ins-and-outs of her daily life. She has not put her life on hold just because I was there to visit, nor would I ever want her to. As a result, I have gotten to know her better, felt more a part of all that is important to her, and therefore, grown even closer to her. I think that God desires that in His relationship with each of us. That we invite Him into every area of our lives, and therefore, grow closer.
Okay, so what’s my point? All of that is just a lovely story unless we take the concept and experience and apply it to our own lives. My point is that in this age of speed and technology, social media and packed schedules, what we are often lacking is presence. Being fully present in the moment. Being fully present to another. Looking one another in the eye. Being present to the beauty and the blessings all around us. Being fully present to God.
We can actually find God’s presence in the ordinary and the routine of our lives just as much as we can outside of that framework. Brother Lawrence who wrote the classic book, The Practice of the Presence of God, realized that He could practice the awareness of the presence of God no matter what He was doing. In prayer and mediation or in scrubbing floors and preparing meals. It was a matter of seeking and finding. A matter of priority and focus. A matter of being in communion throughout the day.
Presence changes us. When I spend time with my dear friend, her presence is impressed upon my heart, mind, and life. When we spend time in the presence of God, when we spend time in His Word, we cannot come away unchanged. Presence is as essential to spiritual growth and maturity as it is to relational growth and maturity with those we see, hear, touch, and know every day.
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “The essential thing is my personal relationship to Jesus Christ – ‘That I may know Him.’ Whenever I want things for myself, the relationship is distorted. It will be a big humiliation to realize that I have not been concerned about realizing Jesus Christ, but only about realizing what He has done for me.” … “My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, or even blessing, but Himself, my God. - Am I measuring my life by this standard or by anything less?” Hard question.
Are we seeking the presence of God to know Him, because we love Him, want to spend time with Him, to express our gratitude for Him, desire communication with Him, want to know His heart more deeply, His ways more completely,…. or only for what He can do for us?
It will cost us something to seek God’s presence in this way. What it will cost us, primarily, is ourselves. Our will. Our way. Our desires. Our pride. Our agenda. Jesus said,
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.”
So how can you be more present? Where can you be more present? With whom can you be more present? And with whom can you share the gift of your presence?
This Devotional blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.
Jennifer Stone-Sexton © 2022 Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching All Rights Reserved.
Quotes and References:  Psalm 105:1-4, Holy Bible. Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern, Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, Maryland USA & Jerusalem, Israel. (Bold emphasis mine).  Lawrence, Brother (c. 1614 - 12 February 1691), The Practice of the Presence of God, Start Publishing LLC, © 2013  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Barbour and Company, Inc. Westwood, NJ © 1935, 1963  Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® - All references and quotes used by permission.
Photo Credits: Cover and Photo 2 by by Courtney Cook on Unsplash |
Photo 1 by Andre Furtado on Unsplash | Photo 3 by Aaron Burden on Unsplash