The Present of Being Present



This morning, I read a devotional about being present. It was about not looking into the future and worrying and about not looking into the past and regretting. It framed the mystery of having hope for heaven while at the same time, experiencing heaven here on earth – in the present. As I reflected on that idea in quiet stillness, I observed thoughts about Catherine and all I wished for her and all I wished I had time to do for and with her. The reality is that she simply doesn’t get that much time from me these days. I wish it were different and I regret how it is. Hmmm… that didn’t seem to align with the spirit of what I’d read. It’s amazing how active the brain becomes when one is trying to be still.

Sometimes Sarah wakes up super early and comes into my bathroom where I typically sit to have this stillness time. I sit on a small rug beside the shower. OK – it’s the bathmat! Let me not glorify it needlessly. Usually, when she comes in and sees me in quiet stillness, she does what she needs to do and quietly closes the door behind her. I’m aware of her, and I don’t engage with her as I continue to practice my focus on God. Today, it was different.

Today, she came in and I could feel her near me. I didn’t open my eyes. I could sense her all around me as if she were looking at me and wondering what to do with me sitting on the floor. I had a vision of a mime looking intensely at an object and moving exaggeratedly all around it. I wondered what Sarah was thinking and what she would do. Amidst all that flurry, I did finally think about God’s call to be present. And then, I was surprised to hear a thought spiral toward me – “Whenever two or more are gathered in God’s name, He is present.” Keeping my eyes closed, and trying to stay in the present, I reached out my right hand and turned up my palm. I just left it there on my knee. It didn’t take even a second and Sarah put her small palm inside mine.

No words.

Just a small, still palm, nestled in mine while I tried to stay focused on God. I realized this was being present. This was the moment. There was no “what next?” There was no regret. All the “to do’s” dropped out of my mind. I felt God surround us and thanked Him. I even turned up the corners of my mouth and smiled a bit. Sarah began to squirm her little hand – just a tiny bit. That woke me to the present of that moment. And I felt her move her hand again, only a little. And then I recognized that moment. Each and every single moment was unique and an opportunity to come back to being present.

When I went downstairs to put Catherine on the bus, many moments had already slipped by in the hustle of making lunch, the quick filling of a cereal bowl and covering it with milk, the auto-pilot straightening of the counter. Those moments went unnoticed in a blur. When I gave Catherine “hugs and kisses to last all day,” just before putting her on the bus, I looked her in the eyes. I rarely do that. For some reason, I looked in her eyes and noticed they were red. They were open. I thought for a split second, I wonder if she can see me. And we had a moment. God was present with us in that moment, too. Maybe I don’t need to do more with Catherine and try to fabricate the time for it. Maybe I don’t need to regret all the things I’m not doing. And maybe I can rest easy and stop planning all the things I wish I were doing. Maybe I simply can recognize these moments that we already have. There are lots of those. Maybe I can appreciate the stillness that is already there – if only I am present.

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