October 16, 2018
The most basic claim of the Christian faith is that God is present to us, totally and completely, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God loved us too much to leave us alone and so came to us in human form, thus assuring us of God’s comfort and guidance in every stage of our lives. Even today, we experience this divine presence in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in and through us.
The Bible supports such an understanding in numerous places. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy.” Revelation 21:3 says, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with people. He will be with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Indeed, the Hebrew word for presence literally means “face”, which suggests that presence is to be face to face not just with one another but even with God.
It only follows, then, that presence is a basic Biblical value and practice. It is a gift we both give to others and receive ourselves because God in Christ has made this possible. And yet presence requires intentionality. In a world where we often find ourselves multi-tasking and feel pulled in a dozen different directions, it often requires a special effort on our part to be truly present to the people around us. We often must work at listening and to tuning out the other distractions that keep us from truly doing so. We must make time and space simply to be with other people, often including those that we love the most, by saying yes to such opportunities and no to others that might try to tug us away. In our busy world, this takes real discipline.
And yet the rewards are great. To converse with someone and really hear what they’re saying before you formulate your reply creates spaciousness and room for authentic intimacy. To be truly present to another is in fact a marvelous gift, perhaps the most valuable gift we will ever give. This is no small thing we are doing. By our presence alone, and especially in times of sadness or transition, we do more than we can ever imagine to share God’s love.
So a basic spiritual discipline for all of us is to constantly ask ourselves these questions: How can we be fully present to God in our lives? How can we be more fully present to one another? And how do we practice the presence of Jesus in such a way as to share the compassion that Jesus himself came to bring? It is a journey for all of us but surely it is worth the effort.