Reflections to start the week
Monday, October 28, 2013
In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that I’m coaching myself this Monday morning. Feel free to eavesdrop, as I reflect on a few recent experiences. They may seem random and unrelated, but I think they have something to teach me. Maybe you too.
I had some free time last week between meetings in New York. I went to the Metropolitan Museum, and visited a couple favorite rooms. Some were packed with people. Others were empty. I gravitated toward the emptier spaces. Once again, I noticed with a sense of irony that the busiest space in the whole building was the museum shop. Why is that? Is it because we want to capture, to preserve, to own the experience? To have something to take away? Something to possess? It’s easy to get judgmental: Wouldn’t the time be better spent being present to the art, rather than browsing through reproductions to purchase?
Last August, my daughter and I traveled in Africa. We spent a day riding in a jeep in a game preserve. We were on safari, taking photographs of extraordinary animals. Digital photography means, of course, that you can take billions of pictures, which means that the camera is always poised in front of your face. It becomes the lens through which the world is viewed. Unless of course, the battery goes dead, which is what happened to us. Suddenly, we lost the ability to take pictures. I was disappointed. I wondered if the trip was ruined. My daughter, more spiritually evolved than I, quickly shifted gears. Nothing we could do about it. Nothing except (of course) to take in the marvels, enjoy the moment, let the moment be. By the end of the day, I realized the power in keeping eyes open, without worrying about preserving or possessing it for reference at some future date.
I went to a restaurant recently. In a nearby booth was a family, parents and two children. Each were on a cell phone, texting or playing games, doing business or checking calendars. Modern family quality time. I guess on one level, they were present to each other. But I wondered: What would their time together have been if they had asked for a basket from the waiter, had put their cell phones in that basket for the time they were together, and talked about their days, or even just talked about how hard it was to be without their cell phones?
My children, who often read these Monday messages, remind me that I need to practice what I preach. As someone addicted to email and smartphones and to-do lists, as someone who worries way too much about tomorrow, I see their point. The growth opportunity for me in the current chapter of my spiritual journey, when the future is not particularly clear, is to figure out what it means to be present, to approach each day with gratitude, asking God to be revealed in some way, ready for whatever encounter or task may surface, knowing that I don’t know what is coming in fifteen minutes, or on Tuesday, October 29, or next month, or next year.
An older parishioner used to tell me each Sunday that today is a gift, which is why it’s called the present. So, Jay, and any others paying attention, be present to this day. Be present to the people you meet. Be present to the lessons God has in store. And if that means putting down the camera or the smart-phone, give it a try.
If you need an example of what that looks like, read the story of how Jesus met people, especially as described in the Gospel of John. Eavesdrop on his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 (a.k.a., Nick at Nite). Listen in as Jesus speaks with the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus only had a little bit of time to save the world. Take about an urgent list of things to do! It didn’t keep him from stopping and listening, remaining present to those he encountered. It was the way he showed love. Follow his example today.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.