Present

I don’t wear a watch.

This may be surprising to some of you because you know that I really (like freakishly really) like to be punctual. I also like to know what time it is so I can keep hold of my day’s schedule, which is often pretty full.

I wore a watch all through high school and most of college. And then…

“I’m sorry, do you have to be somewhere?” a friend earnestly asked when I glanced at my watch for probably the third time during our short conversation.

I realized that I looked at my watch all the time. So I stopped wearing one. Also, now that I carry a cell phone, I usually leave it in the car or put it aside whenever I’m spending time with others for the same reason–it’s too easy to constantly glance at my phone.

One of the things I’m learning a lot about in these past months is the discipline of spending time with others and being present with them.

See, I’m not really a quality time person by nature. Sure, I like to be with others and I do need quality time with my loved ones, but it’s something that I easily let slip through the cracks. It’s my fifth love language, if that tells you anything (interesting fact? Jason’s primary love language is quality time…another interesting fact? I feel like I’m back in the mid-90s, drinking strawberry kiwi Snapple and trying to remember the order of the moves in the “Macarena” when I write about love languages).

Yet, I do like to follow Jesus and it’s hard to deny that Jesus was about people and being present with and for the people around him.

Jesus didn’t remind the Samaritan woman at the well that it was lunch time. (John 4)

Jesus didn’t consult a calendar before he healed on the Sabbath. (John 5)

Jesus didn’t send the crowd away when he was tired and grieving. (John 6)

Jesus took the time to weep with Mary and Martha before he raised their brother, Lazarus. (John 11)

Jesus took time to be with his disciples, washing their feet and sharing a meal, even in the last minutes of his pre-resurrection life. (John 13)

The resurrected Jesus took time to share a meal with his disciples and reconcile his relationship with Simon Peter. (John 21)

At all times and in all things, Jesus was about being with people. I want to do that, too.

For me, this looks like a willingness to make time for prayer with others. One of the reasons I’ll miss Whitney so much is that she is a person who prays regularly with me. Rev. John is another person who prays with me. I also have a standing weekly date to pray with youth ministers in Henderson. There are others who share regular prayer with me and I’m grateful for that I’m so glad that I make time to pray with loved ones, even if it means my to do list isn’t accomplished today.

For me it also looks like a willingness to drop whatever task I’m doing when my phone rings or buzzes or there’s a knock at my door or I hear the familiar pop of facebook chat or I’m just out in the community going about my errands and someone needs to talk. It’s true, this can be exhausting, and I do try to have boundaries, but when someone needs me, I want to be as available as makes sense.

It’s also an effort to let people fill my schedule, not tasks. Lunch with friends, trips to the mall with youth group girls, time in my office with church members, special trips or treats with my family, time before bed with my husband listening to him recap his day and offering encouragement or laughter at his (sometimes corny, but always loveable) jokes. This is the part of putting people first that can really fun if you don’t let yourself be distracted by what you’re not doing instead!

Which brings me to the part where I try to be present with the people I’m with–not distracted by my calendar or my phone or a clock on the wall or thinking about what else I could or should be doing. That one can be hard, especially if someone catches me in my office where I’m completely distracted by things that need to be done. It is also hard at home, sometimes, when I’m at the end of my day and I’m drained and all I want is to bury myself in my bed or in my laptop or with the mindless company of the television. I’m working on that.

What’s happened is that I’ve come to love spending time with people. I’m still an introvert and I still need my quiet time and my alone time. I still am really far too busy and have a to-do list that chases me out the door, unfinished, each night when I leave my office. I still have to remind myself of how important being present with others is and make a concerted effort to live out the things I’ve listed above. Yet, it’s changed the way ministry happens for me and I really enjoy that.

Besides, I don’t have much money and my talents are limited–all I really have is time!

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