by Allison Martin
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
Roll call- every introvert’s worst nightmare. Okay, maybe not that bad. But it’s at least on my Top Ten Most Dreaded list. I hated it. I had to mentally prepare myself to squeak out that one syllable- “Here.” God mercifully put me into the Dixon family. If my last name had started with an A, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown before I left the sixth grade.
I was probably the exception. Most kids didn’t have a drastic jump in their pulse when their name was called. Some obviously didn’t mind a bit that for two seconds, all attention would be on them. Every once in a while, someone would be so far off in their own little world, they would forget to say, “Present.” The teacher, looking down at her attendance chart, would call out their name. Twenty-something little heads turn their direction. But they’re wistfully imagining all the fun that awaits them after 3:00. They don’t even hear her. Two seconds of silence. Never looking up from her attendance book, the teacher jots down an “A” beside their name. Their silence was her answer. They weren’t there. Well, they were. But they weren’t. That would probably be confusing, except that it is so unfortunately relatable.
Our schedules are so full and our minds so busy that we can find ourselves completely disconnected from the present moment. Mentally replying to emails at the dinner table. Thinking through lesson plans while having coffee with a friend. Planning out this week’s grocery list while sitting in Sunday school. You get the idea. Physically, we are present. Put a check by our name- we’re there. But mentally, emotionally, and in all the ways that really matter, we’re absent.
Most of us are probably absent a lot more than we realize- or maybe it’s just me. I pride myself on being a multi-tasker as if it’s a good thing, and sometimes it is. But usually, it means I’m trying to be “present” in two or more places half-heartedly, rather than the one thing that God’s placed in front of me will all of my heart.
I try to be present in so many areas simultaneously that I’m actually absent from all of them.
Think back to the last conversation you had with your husband, child, or friend. Were you really there? Being fully present isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It cannot be passive- actually, it’s a very involved and sometimes draining process.
Too many times, I have failed to give my time, my affirmation, my concern, or my invitation, not because I didn’t care, but because I wasn’t present enough to realize that someone needed it.
God has been pressing this on my heart lately, and I want to share with you some practical ways this could play out.
If your husband has completed a goal, really being there is making a big deal of his accomplishments and celebrating something that mattered to him. Let’s be honest- sometimes it’s easy to zone out when our husband is talking about one of his hobbies because we “don’t know anything about that stuff.” But maybe if we would make an effort to be in that moment with him, we would learn. Not because we care about the hobby. But because we care about him.
If your child is wandering through a valley of peer pressure and finding where they fit in, being there is taking their hand and fumbling through the darkness beside them.
It doesn’t require all the right words or even a solution to their problems. Just be there.
If your friend is fighting a battle, really being there means going to war alongside her. It means fighting for her through prayer and encouragement and just caring enough to stay involved.
When that kid is wreaking havoc in your children’s church or disrupting Sunday School, easy to be mentally preparing our lecture while they give their excuses. And sometimes they need a lecture.
But maybe this time, they need someone to be present enough to realize there’s more going on than what you see on the surface.
Maybe they need someone present enough to realize that their behavior is begging for love in the most unloving ways.
When someone is pouring out their heart to me, it’s easy to wade through our sea of cliches looking for a quick fix and a Scripture to go with it. Because you don’t always have to really be there to do that. Being present is sometimes just trying to understand.
Because even if you can’t fix anything, at least they know they’re not alone.
Let me lecture myself a minute: the emails aren’t that important. Instagram isn’t going anywhere. Thinking about what I’m cooking for dinner tonight isn’t actually getting anything accomplished. Take a moment to clear your mind, and be there. Listen. Pay attention. Give all of yourself to this moment right here.
Join me today in asking myself, “Am I present?” It’s a hard question for me to ask myself because I usually don’t like the answer. Really being there will never just happen. The cares of life and the busyness of our schedules will make sure of that. Being present is always intentional.
Can we commit this week to just being there? For our husbands and our children and anyone else that God has placed within our realm of influence. Here’s our goal- you fill in your name, and I’ll fill in mine:
Allison Martin? Present.