Practising presence...


We never seem to have enough time to do everything that we want to do, either having to cram in more or sacrifice something else. Our time has become are most valuable resource - we sell it in exchange for money in order to be able to afford the things that we want to do and that in turn has sporned a whole host of phrases such as 'working for the weekend,' or 'dying to be on holiday.' 'Me' time and 'quality' time have become so important, time to do what i want, when i want and where i want.

We often dream about winning the lottery, getting that next promotion etc until we reach that nivarna of having enough money that we don't need to keep selling ourselves and can escape full time into our day dream world.

I am increasingly convinced that in our western lifestlye, our time has become comodified, for example, we talk that:

time is... money time is... precious time is... in short supply time is... something to be invested time... needs to be managed

What is our response to this as christians? I'd like to suggest three possible areas and hear your own thoughts on this:

1. gift of time

In an economic enviroment where we do not have the skills to rebuild someone's home or help someone make their living we do have a precious gift that we can share with each other - our time. I am growing more convinced that having time for people, committing to relationships and being there for someone - and letting them know that and following through when called upon - are both incredibly powerful and counter-cultural.

In deed, I have noticed that taking the initiative and making time for people, offering up of myself reveals two things: firstly my own selfish self centred streak which is always clock watching and calculating what this is costing me in 'me-time' and secondly how valuled, appreciated and accepted feel when they know that someone is prepared to do that for them.

challenge: have i got space/margin in my life to be able to do this more often or do i constantly need to schedule people into the future to protect my time for the things i want to do?

2: being present

I am always impressed by the way Jesus seemed to stop and find time - especially in the small details, whether it was blessing children, spotting zacheus up the tree or welcoming a blind beggar who was yelling to him. Most of my time I think i would be oblivous -whether at work, or at home I am so often not present, a ghost in my life whilst i escape into day dreams of a better/more interesting/more money job, or a bigger house, a better neighbourhood, a stepford esque wife who met all my needs with none of her own or children that didn't require my help and attention.

I am so often not present in my own life, in the conversations and occurances that are happening that i miss out on spotting those moments to ask: how are you? what can i do for you?

In fact i am so often busy trying to do my own things that i am not even present to God, prayer reduced to a quick shopping list and bible reading every once in awhile when i start feeling too guilty. Altho i am more than happy to have God's being present in my life in order to get his blessing on my dreams.

challenge: am i fully present in my life? Am i like the Hugh Grant character in the film 'About a boy' who is described as "a bit of a blank" - wanting to remain an island rather than risk the inconvenience of making meaningful connections? Do i have a theological reality and spritual/social practices that helps me with suffering, boredom, frustration, confession and encourgement and connects me to others to be present in their lives and allows others to be present in my life as well?

3. Presence

In the film 'Click,' Adam Sandler's character is given a universal remote control that allows him amongst other things to FFWD >> through time - boring family meal times, hours in the office, rows with his wife and even sex with her - although he is present in his life he has no presence/interaction/connectivity. The tragedy is that these are the events that give his life depth and meaning and give life and affirmation to to others, even as they are inconvenience and in some cases almost a chore. As the controller remembers his preferances it becomes an automatic occurance, even when he might chose otherwise and he becomes a stanger to his wife, children and friends.

The question I ask myself is not only whether I am present in my life, but am I a presence? What do i do with my time to bring out good things in the people and places around me - rather than dream of a romantic escape to somewhere/someone better - what do I do now about making where i live a better place? For example the simple act of picking up rubbish in my street rather than cursing people or wondering why the local council is so incompetnent that they can't spend my hard earned money they tax me on sorting out this problem?

Challenge: Can I stop blaming others for problems, looking for an escape route or two, and instead start doing practical things to change the situation. How can I practice being and bringing God's presence into my life and future in a way that is about me being part of his story rather than just wanting him to validate my own?

Your thoughts?

- do you agree or disagree that time has become our most precious commodity? - how do you practice giving your time, being present and a presence? - what have you noticed/felt as you do so? - are the challenges for you, similar or different to mine?

Paul Mayers