Practicing Presence in the World

Last year I heard Dr. Phil Kenneson speak at the slow church conference. His talk (which you can listen to here) was deeply impactful to me. He talked about presence and one of the most impactful things he said was, “We don’t have anything more precious to give each other than our own presence.” He didn’t say our gifts, abilities, or wise words, but simply our presence. This doesn’t just mean that we are physically in a room or shared space with someone, but instead he means present with that person being attentive and devoting time to that person. The final challenge of being present is being present is being present in the world.

Photo Credit: clarkmaxwell via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: clarkmaxwell via Compfight cc

Being present in the world starts with being present to God and ourselves. When you are present to God and yourself, you are in tune with God and you know what’s happening in you and this gives you the ability to offer your whole self to the present moment.

David Benner writes, “Authentic presence is always grounded in authenticity. Because it emerges from our being rather than our doing, it is always grounded in reality. Being present is being real. It is really being in the here and now. Anything else is pretense, not presence.”[1]

There are so many times that we offer pretense instead of presence. We offer who we want to be or who we think the other person wants us to instead of offering who we are. I know that I have done this. I want to please or impress someone so I offer something other than my real self. I have noticed however in the times that I am even the least bit successful in being present to God and myself I can offer authentic presence to those around me. In doing this I am able to help bring the presence of God to that person.

Being authentically present in the world is a difficult thing. There are some many distractions and so much pressure to be something that we are not. As a follower of Christ however, we are to be present to him and to ourselves so that we can be present for Him to the world. In other words, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength so we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

So this is the final challenge of my New Years Resolution. To be present to those around me in the world so that I can love them and show the love of God to them.

[1] David G. Benner, Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014), 27.

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