The Discipline of Presence

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.

11 responses to “The Discipline of Presence”

  1. Present!! Or am I? Great message… Wandering minds is not something most cannot deny! I was praying over lunch the other day and noticed Lin was peeking at the TV.. I said.. “Hey, you are not praying with me”. She said, “How did you know if you were really concentrating on prayer and not wondering if I was? Yup, wandering minds! Even in Prayer!

  2. This whole thing is one of the reasons I sometimes want to stop blogging! Am I convincing myself, on some level, that my relationship with God is deeper than it is by writing. Sometime to ponder methinks!

    • Great insight Nick. I think it gets down to what motivates us to do things – calling, guilt, passion, lust – and we have to check our motivations. For me writing is a calling and so it is a discipline to to remember my motivation when I put pen to paper or finger to keyboard.

  3. I’m really looking forward to this series. Thanks for making the discoveries in your own journey instructional for the rest of us. Also, this may seem petty, but I appreciate your writing style. It is deliberately grammatically functional – very easy to read, yet by no means shallow. I suspect you have a sizable collection of big theological words that you are intentionally avoiding for the sake of clarity for the rest of us. Kudos, cousin.

    • Thanks Matt,
      I really appreciate the assessment. It is my goal to stay away from these devotions becoming bible studies or theology courses (they have schools for that). I really want to engage people in the discussion about God and their relationship to Him and His people. I hope that the following weeks will be a blessing to you.

  4. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the most effective weapons in the Enemy’s arsenal is that of distraction!It takes a lot of discipline to stay in the present moment in our relationship with God and others. But it is a worthwhile goal to develop this discipline, as it affects our connectedness with those we love.

    Thanks Chris,

    • Thanks Don. Good to see you at the service this morning. It was interesting to listen to Aaron this morning and note how important it is to be present in the terrain God has you walking through day to day. Good to be challenged to be fully present even in terrains that don’t appeal to our sensibilities.


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