Monday, January 10, 2011

presence

I had to take Jazz to the vet for a shot yesterday morning. I asked Dean if he wanted to come with me and he said no, so I bundled her up in her cage and we trundled off to the garage. Our garage opens with a keypad, so I held Jazz's cage in one hand while I entered the code and got the door open. Our car fits rather tightly into the garage, so I struggled with the heavy cage as I dodged a hanging bike and opened the back car door a crack to wedge her cage through the opening without scratching either the wall, the car door, the leather seats, or myself. Not an easy feat. Finally, we were on our way and Jazz serenaded me with her rendition of "I Know Where We're Going and I Don't Like It!" all the way to the vet's office.

I won't regale you with all the details, but because of the slushy mess on the ground and a large bag of cat food that I acquired at the vet's, more awkwardness ensued in various parking lots. I finally got Jazz in the door of our condo and grabbed the shopping bags to head to the grocery store for much-needed supplies. Dean was still not dressed, so I deduced that he would not be accompanying me on this errand either and left in a bit of a huff. As I pulled out of the driveway and onto the street, I heard a strange noise. I kept driving, and soon saw my neighbour running towards me, waving her hands. I was dragging a Christmas tree under the car (someone had dumped their tree right at the edge of the driveway and due to the angle of the road, I had not seen it sticking out). I pulled over and thankfully, it dislodged itself, but my annoyance was increasing.
I complained to God about how Dean wasn't there for me that day when I really could use the help. And then I stopped. I was sure that Dean could make the same complaint about me many times, but he never did. And I was sure God could list countless times when I did not make myself present for him. Sigh. I was whining and making things more difficult than they needed to be, certainly, but there was something else at work here. Demanding that another be present to me sort of defeated the gift of their presence. And if being present is indeed a gift, freely given, why does it seem like such a hard thing to do sometimes? A task that I often drag myself to, knowing that it will require a lot of energy?

Perhaps being present is not as hard as I think it is. When I am busy or tired, I tend to see being present to someone as one more thing I have to put effort into, something I have to make happen by pulling myself into the moment and hanging on tightly so as not to be distracted. It becomes another burden and more work added to an already overworked schedule, but it is the responsible and right thing to do, so I oblige. And I sigh. And now I realise that I had it all wrong. Being present with a person is (for the most part) not an intense effort. It is simply letting go of everything else.

Sitting down in a chair is not a heavy labour; it is letting go of standing. Sleeping is not hard work; it is letting go of consciousness. Being with God does not take concentrated effort; it takes letting go of everything else that demands my attention and instead, coming into the state that I was made to be in. Being present touches on something basic, important, and vital to our spirits because it reflects God's own identifier: I AM. It is ceasing to be caught up in the past and future, not looking at the "still to be done's" and the "what have I done's," but being present to a person who is right in front of us. To put it another way, we are "I AM-ing" in imitation of the ultimate I AM.

Sometimes being present does seem to necessitate pushing away all other distractions and urgencies, but this is not because it is inherently a labour-intensive task; it is because we have become so entangled in the un-present that we have to fight our way free. Being present was never meant to be this big deal; it is supposed to be a natural, joyful, frequent occurrence. When we have a hard time falling into bed or sagging into a comfortable chair, our muscles must be taught again how to let go instead of living in tension. Lying in bed in the morning just after I awake is one of my favourite times because there is an endless, peaceful quality to this undefined moment before the rush of the day kicks in. Lying there does not require a strong grip; it just requires that I not move from that spot.

Let me not move from the spot where Jesus is, always present, always I-AMing, always inviting me to join him. Let me learn to fall and sag into his presence.
This is a photo of the end of the celebrations on Christmas day. I noted the moment with a photo because it seemed important to savour.

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