Thursday, August 28, 2014

in His Presence

Towards the end of the school year, a friend remarked how many of his friends had said they regretted living in a blur - always busy, always occupied, not taking the time to stop and rest, care for people, and simply be present. He thanked me, because he said that observing me try to live well, thoughtfully and without rush reminded him to slow down and be present himself.

That made me feel good. All last year it was heavy on my heart to live thoughtfully, take nothing for granted, and make every minute count. I realized in a new way what it means to walk in the Presence of God on a daily basis, and realized that it is only possible to fully experience His Presence when I myself am fully present, and vice versa. Nothing chases away an awareness of closeness with Jesus more than a crazy to-do list or a preoccupation with the past or the future. But when I am fully present wherever I am, keeping my eyes wide and hands open to see and receive His gifts, that is when I am closest to Him.

So I made present my word for the year. I wanted to remind myself that Jesus is always present with me, and that therefore it is worth my while to make every effort to be fully present myself.

I succeeded, for the most part, during the school year. I think that this is due to the fact that I experienced so many new things that I was not equipped to handle on my own that I automatically was in a state of continuous reliance on God. As I went to Him for help and guidance and wisdom I walked in His Presence and in the Present. It was a sweet blessing.

But this summer I think I forgot how desperately I need and desire God's Presence and guidance and fellowship. I was back at home, in the very familiar role of daughter and sister that I have successfully fulfilled for years. We went through a big transition with a move, but that was nothing new: we have moved many times before. So I unconsciously reverted to relying on myself instead of relying on God and seeking His Presence constantly.

Through the chaos of moving I found myself longing for the stability and control of school life - a stability that I have since realized is imaginary. What I needed was not the stability and routine of a specific place, but the constant awareness of God's Presence that the Holy Spirit had blessed me with during the school year. By wishing I was back at school, I missed out on fully enjoying what God was giving me this summer - sweet, sweet time with my family and with Him.

My summer was challenging and amazing, but it would have been even more so had I heeded my lesson from last year and God's prompting to remain in His Presence and in the present. I should have resisted the impulse to think that because I had already been through similar experiences, I could assert some independence and do things for myself. I gained nothing by that - and I lost precious time.

I don't want to continue my mistake of the summer into the school year. As I dive back into life at college, I need to remember that even though college is no longer as unfamiliar as it was last year, I must seek God's Presence even more fervently. I need to seek His aid to be present this year - accepting the challenges and joys of sophomore year without wishing I could be in another place (home) or another time (freshman year). More and more I realize that my own unaided attempts to follow Jim Elliot's excellent advice - "Wherever you are, be all there" - are destined to failure. Because the past and the future can be idealized, but the present is all too clearly imperfect.

It is only when I cling to Jesus and His promise to be with me always that I can truly be present and see the beauty of the present in spite of its imperfections. Only when I cling to Jesus and His Presence will I be able to see and rejoice in the grace that He so eagerly pours out on me.

"Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20

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