The Discipline of Presence: A Place to Start

16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:16 (NIV)

We are wanderers in this world.  We are born disconnected, separated from the one who made us.  We are like Cain, living in a wilderness away from the Lord’s presence; and we would have no hope of changing this miserable circumstance if the Lord had not provided a way out.

Through Christ we are no longer wanderers in the world, we are the beacons, the lights on the hills.  God can now be present in our lives, or maybe it is better to say that we can now experience God’s presence in our lives.  It is not as if God wasn’t present before, but we were ill-equipped to perceive and understand it in our unredeemed condition.

So now we have walked through that door of salvation into the grace and love of God, granted access to His presence through the Holy Spirit, but it doesn’t always feel like God is present.  Our similarities with Cain do not die easily.  We struggle with experiencing God’s presence because we struggle with being whole people.

Our fragmentation and inner divisiveness come from inside us, even though we might try and blame the world and others and even God.  It is this fragmentary living that causes us so much pain and heartache, and I believe that at the root is a lack of love.  In the tragedy of Cain and Abel, Cain is driven by hate for his brother, himself and even God (or at least Cain’s idea of God).  If at any point leading up to spilling Abel’s blood Cain had allowed love to rule his thoughts and actions, Genesis might have been a different story.

When God commands us to love others as we love ourselves, we sometimes forget the loving ourselves part.  If we want to be fully present in the lives of others as God is present in ours, we must love ourselves.  This is not a call to selfish love, but a First Corinthians 13 love.  Read that chapter and see if it describes how you treat yourself and how you think about yourself.  I know for me the answer is “not yet,” and that is why I struggle to love others in the same way.

When my wife needs me to be fully present with her in a conversation or in silence, I need to love myself enough to love her enough.  That is a place to start…loving yourself.  Love that is defined by God, delivered by the Holy Spirit and purchased by the blood of Christ.  Love that heals and grows and mends.  Love that allows light into all of our dark corners so that God can do His work.  It is not just okay to love yourself; it is the doorway to loving others and being present in their lives.

As we learn to love ourselves the way God loves us, we become capable of greater love for others and more skilled at being present in their lives.  Take some time this week to ask God to search out your dark corners in the light of His limitless love.  Meditate on the love described in I Corinthians 13 and ask God to help you have that love for the person you see in the mirror. Pray that God will help you see yourself through His loving eyes.

6 responses to “The Discipline of Presence: A Place to Start”

  1. Yes, yes yes and yes again.

    You have hopped onto my wavelength entirely! (that sounds a bit vain, perhaps I’ve hopped on yours!)

    Love your neighbour as you love yourself could be seen as an observation of human behaviour as well as a command. People who are truly comfortable within their own skin are often good at loving others. But when our insecurities rule our lives we often want others to pander to them and forget about loving them truly.

    Cheers for this!

    • Thanks for the confirmation. It is always good to hear God authentication through others. Somewhere in the course of Christian history we became confused about what it means to love ourselves in a scriptural way. We think of loving ourselves as narcissistic, but true love (I Corinthians 13 love) is seasoned with humility, sacrifice and grace. Glad that this spoke to you.


  2. Truly wise words, Chris. I’ve been doing some reading on the mind/body connection as it relates to our health and it is this particular author’s assertion that we are not only separated from God but from ourselves. We can’t even be present with ourselves! Which has ramifications all over the place… I enjoy your writing very much and look forward to following this series!

    • Thanks Deb. I have been thinking about this issue for the last couple of years and realized that it is a genuine struggle day to day. I hope that this series will be helpful to others in having whole lives.


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