This Present Presence
Joel Eschenbach • March 19, 2017
Ramblings About Prayer & This Very Moment.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the future. For as long as I can remember, I've been enthralled with sci fi, and have had an obsession with what the future will be like. My all time favorite movie is Back To The Future 2, mostly because of the futuristic 2015 they portrayed (too bad we never got flying cars or hoverboards), and my favorite theme park is Epcot!
A few years back, I took the Gallup Strength Finder test and my number one strength was "Futuristic". Gallup defines the Futuristic strength like this: You are the kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon. The future fascinates you. As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold, and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward, into tomorrow.
So for me, looking forward is comfortable, but being present is not.
Most days, it's difficult for me to be present to the present. People always say things like "Enjoy the journey" and "Live in the moment," which sounds great (and kind of cliche), but it's tricky. In a very literal sense, it's impossible to live in an exact moment because time never stops moving. I can however, stop and be aware of my surroundings in the present. I can train my mind to slow down and stop spooling up all of the things I have to do. But this is so difficult!
The first book I ever read from Richard Rohr was The Naked Now. This book opened my mind to this idea of living in the present in a very practical way. I love how he writes, “If you are present, you will eventually and always experience the Presence.” Using the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38), he goes on to say that how we do this moment is how we do everything. Martha was caught up in all kinds of good things but she was missing what was right in front of her, the Presence of Jesus. And so do I...
- Richard Rohr
I tend to regret things as I press toward the great beyond, but the thing I regret most is when I'm not present to my kids. I mean really, truly present. Not looking at my phone while listening to a story from them, or checking my email when they want me to play with them. I'm talking about doing things with them, on their level. Or truly listening with my heart, mind, and body.
I think it might take a lifetime to learn the art of presence. If I'm honest with myself, the present moment is boring. It's always more fun (or at least more mentally engaging) to think and ponder about what's ahead, than it is to be present in the moment. The present moment feels empty, naked, and raw.
It’s even difficult for me to be present right now as I’m writing this!
Maybe this is the reason I've often struggled with prayer. True prayer is training yourself to be present to God in the moment. It's what contemplation is. It's what meditation is. It's where God is.
It might seem obvious, but the only place any of us experience God is in the present moment. We might remember a time in the past or look forward to an event or experience in the future, but right now is the only place/time where the divine presence of God can be truly known. It's also the only time/place where anything can truly be experienced.
So I end today's rambling session with a somewhat cliche, but true statement about life: