I talked in the previous post about how the title for this blog comes from a book on spiritual devotion written by a monk. “Practicing the presence of God” can seem best achieved in isolation. Many of us even feel guilty about how little time we spend alone with God or at least only thinking about God wherever we are. The truth is, the call of the Christian disciple is not universally to be present with God only and acknowledge His presence in a “removed” setting. Yes, even Jesus withdrew at times to spend quiet hours away from others giving attention to His relationship with the Father, and I believe that’s important to model. But before giving His life He prayed for His followers, declaring that we are not “of the world” but neither to be “taken out of the world” (John 17).
One of the things I am learning most about ministry is the significance of presence. Someone recently joked with me that church would be great if not for all the humans. We really have an uncanny ability to foul things up and make a place seem unappealing. But for better and for worse, you can’t have church without people. You can’t have the Body of Christ upon the earth, the community filled with the Holy Spirit of God through which God is redeeming and transforming the world, without human beings. From beginning to end of the biblical story God repeatedly displays an insane insistence on using flawed creatures with seemingly infinite limitations to carry out His supernatural activity.
Practicing presence, being fully present with others in speech, relationship, prayer, compassion, etc. is what it means to truly live out the Incarnation – God with us. Another quote I heard recently that took root in my soul is this: “The most important person is the one in front of you.” This is a statement, perhaps even an overstatement, of the importance of practicing presence. We live in a culture that seems to drive us more and more the other direction, even leading us to believe we can be present with others through technological devices while ignoring those in the room with us, or even that we can be equally present with all! But Christ-likeness requires imitating Incarnation, being as present with others as God has chosen to be with us.