“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 107 NRSV)
I attended a conference recently that put me back in touch with friends I haven’t seen in some time. We spent time catching up with one another and what what’s happening in our families. Then, as often happens, we began to talk about other people we knew but hadn’t seen in a while. I asked about a certain person, and my friend responded, “You know I see them from time to time, but I rarely get a chance to talk with them” In other words they are present with someone without really being present with them. In the same room, but not connecting.
And that’s not to point fingers at anyone because I think we have all done this from time to time. Whether it be a family reunion or a party its hard to get around to see everyone. much less have a meaningful conversation with them.
I know I’ve experienced this more than once. It’s often at a family get together. Our family has gone over the years as most families do. And while I see everyone who is in the room, I often don’t get a chance to talk really talk with everyone, We both get engaged in conversation with to the people, we get busy. There have been times when we go home and I’ll have to ask my wife how is so and so. I saw them across them room, but when they left it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a chance to talk with them even thought we had been in the same room for six or seven hours.
Without some real effort on our part, we may often be present with someone but not really be present. It doesn’t even have to be a big event. It may be us and our immediate family or just our spouse. But because we allow worries or other thoughts preoccupy us, we may not say two meaningful words to them all night. How many partners are in the same room with the children but never really talk with them? And we haven’t even touched on how technology has made us into a very insulated culture. We put on our ear buds, we plug in and tune out from the world. Yes its every easy to be present and yet not truly present. We can be with them, yet miss them altogether.
Many Christians experience the same thing with God. We come to church, we sing the hymns or praise songs, we go through the liturgy and prayer. The truly holy of us might even pull up the scriptures on our phone. The really pious who have a call to evangelism might even check in they are at church on their social media sites. We can do all of that, yet still seem to miss God.
Like that evening with the family or the party, we come and acknowledge that God is there. Yet somehow we never seem to truly connect with Him. We get distracted. We think about what might happen that day. The kid in front of us is about to have a meltdown, and so is her mom. We get distracted by our problems and worries. We sing that last song, maybe grab a donut and leave. All the element are there but we missed God. We are present, but not truly present with Him.
I have found that when I encounter spiritual dryness in my life it’s often because I am present without really being present. I did all the right things, but I missed God. Oh, I thought about him and praised Him. But I missed Him His presence in my life that out to be at the center of our worship experiences.
And that’s why Lent is such an important season for us in the church year. Lent, by its nature is a slower paced season. Unlike Advent that hurdles along at breakneck speed toward the manger, Lent calls us to slow down. It might even ask us to stop all together. Lent asks us to turn our hearts inward. It asks us to look upward toward God. It invites us to truly be present and not miss God.
So how can Lent help us to be present and not miss God? One of the ways is to look at your life and give something up for Lent that is distracting you from God. Giving up something in Lent isn’t about improving your body image. It’s about letting go of distractions that keep you from missing God.
Try not only giving up, but taking on something. Engage in a spiritual discipline. Read your Bible every day. Or set aside time every day to pray, but make it all praise time to God. Or praying for other people. If your health allows it, fast. Ask yourself, what can I do to be more present with God.
Be in ministry. Ministry is actually a spiritual discipline, but for our sake today, I’m listing it separatley. Remember Jesus words to feed the hungry and take care of the needy? Matt 25 reminds us that serving others is serving Jesus. It makes us aware of His presence. One of the ways we can keep from missing God is to see Him in the eyes of someone else.
If you’ve felt like you’ve missed God lately, I want to encourage you to use this season to draw lose again. Become away of His presence and enjoy being with HIm. Please don’t miss Him this year.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><