Being Present Amid the Presents

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You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

To Multi-Task… Or Not

As a multi-tasker, I strive to be present everywhere at all times. There are some people who say you can’t multi-task. Those people would be wrong. I have run a 32-channel sound board during church while holding an infant, mowed the lawn while composing blog posts in my head, and responded to emails while cooking dinner. In order to keep everything afloat in our family, I make lists, plan ahead, and schedule everything on our family Google calendar.

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize what people like Michael Hyatt mean when they say people can’t multitask: “When we multitask, we compromise our ability to decide what’s relevant and what’s not. We start wasting time by processing useless information, and that keeps us in a downward spiral by increasing busyness and decreasing results.”1 For me, the “decreasing results” means I’m there, but not actually present.

I’m a Martha

For whatever reason, I have this compulsive need to be busy. When our families get together over the holidays, I’m always the one prepping food, doing dishes, or hanging up coats. I’m the Martha of my family. What does this mean? It’s an allusion to the story in Luke 10 of when Jesus came to Mary and Martha’s house:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Like Martha, I often find myself prioritizing the wrong things. And then I get frustrated with the “Mary”s who have gotten it right! I mistake busyness for productivity. Jesus helped Martha realize that there are more important things than kneading bread and serving wine. It’s about the relationship, being present, and growing closer to the people around and your Savior.

Why Do We Remain Distant?

There are lots of reasons why we avoid the opportunities around us to build relationships. Sometimes, like Martha, our priorities are mixed up. We replace quality interactions with people with doing things to make us busy and “productive”. Sometimes, technology gets in the way. We connect to people online while missing the people right in front of us.

But mostly, it’s because of sin. Pastor Ben explains, “Because the first humans turned their back on God and lived selfishly, humanity has been tainted. We are, by nature, selfish and turned in on ourselves. Relationships are hard and messy. They take time and work and they can be exhausting, even scary. So, we are tempted to just continue to isolate ourselves.”2

Basically, it’s easier to avoid building relationships than to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with other people and get to know them.

Give the Best Gifts

Christmastime is particularly busy, with tons of expectations on your time, focus, and finances. For me, that means I’m far more tempted to prioritize activities and to-do’s over my family and friends. So how do I plan to keep my focus on building relationships with those people who are most important to me, including my Savior? I’m going to try to give the best gifts: my time and attention.

Pastor Ben explains the power of giving gifts: “When someone gives a gift, it opens the door for a friendship. You get access to get to know the person and care for the person. A gift can start to break down the walls of hostility. But also, a gift can open the door to the ultimate Giver, Jesus Christ.”3 Prioritizing a person over a task shows them they are important and valued, just how Jesus sees them. Whether your gift is a physical gift delivered with a smile or your undivided attention to a conversation, it shows the love of your Savior coming through you.

So join with me this holiday season: Leave the dishes dirty for a little longer. Hold off on answering an email for a few extra hours. Don’t stress about making that extra batch of Christmas cookies. Be present with the people around you.  Take time out of the busyness to worship and spend time in prayer, thanking God for those things and people around you. Because God is always present for you.

Resources

1 Hyatt, M. (2019). Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less.  p. 162. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

2 Sadler, B. (3 November 2019). “Welcoming: Victory core value”. Welcome to Victory sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/welcoming/

3 Sadler, B. (27 November 2019). “Generous: Victory core value”. Welcome to Victory sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/victory-core-values-generosity/

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