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Be Present

“You become what you give your attention to.”  — Epictetus

If we want to be better as men and women, one of the first things we have to get right is what we are paying attention to.  This ain’t easy.  And it feels so small.  But your attention and how you live with people in the moment is like a rudder that steers the ship of your life.  Small changes at this point will produce substantial course corrections.

As human beings, we have a teacher in Jesus of Nazareth.  He’s certainly more than a teacher, but because that is true, he’s also not less than that either.  One of his key teachings was about living in the present moment:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33–34, NIV)

The antidote to so many of life’s problems is in “seeking first God’s Kingdom.” What is God’s Kingdom? Great question, and I’m so glad you asked.  The Kingdom of God is his rule and reign.  Or, to put it differently, it’s what God is doing in the world.  Jesus’ point (and his life served the example) was that God was doing quite a lot for those who had the eyes to see and the ears to hear. 

So, realistically, how do you “seek first the Kingdom”? That sounds like a fairly abstract task doesn’t it? Most of us would tend to think this involves large chunks of solitude and quiet prayer.  And while solitude is an important ingredient to a healthy life, it’s surely not all of it. My big question is: as a man with responsibilities –  wife, kids, church, work, etc – how do I go about my days in a kingdom seeking way? 

What I’m about to say is surely not all that could be said.  But I’ve got a few minutes of your time, so I’ll share this idea.  When we look at Jesus, he essentially goes between two kinds of interactions characterized by two Greek terms. 

The first is Eremos Topos. Most bible translators render this as “lonely place” or “solitary place” or “Wilderness” or something to that effect.  The idea is that Jesus often withdrew to the lonely place to be alone with the Father.  And in the lonely place, the place of solitude, he had peace with the Father.  I’m not saying there weren’t hard conversations and he didn’t have moments of intense anguish (see the Garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14), but he was present to and engaged with the Father. 

And the second is Koinonia. This word is usually rendered as “fellowship”.  Which actually is a pretty good description if you think of it more in terms of The Lord of the Rings than you do the typical church usage of the word.  It essentially means a shared life with others.  Jesus shared his life with people.  All the time.  He was present to them and listened to them and engaged with them in the moment.  

Here’s where all of this comes to our formation as people able to live in the present moment and seek first the Kingdom of God: 

Jesus paid attention to the Father and to the people around him at any given moment.  He was the consummate man of love.  And as Dallas Willard said, “The first act of love is the giving of attention.”  Jesus was fully present to the Father and to himself in the Eremos topos. And he was equally fully present to others in Koinonia. But you and I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.  It’s like there’s a gravitational pull to the center of this chart – distraction.  You know what I mean? 

My kids want to play a game and I’m mindlessly scrolling on my phone.
My wife is telling me about a conversation she had at work and I’m half listening while I check the scores from last night. 
I see an old friend and want to connect but my schedule’s too full to fit him in. 
I notice an older woman struggling at the grocery store, but I don’t help because my agenda is more urgent.

Distraction is the enemy of life with God.  Or maybe it’s that distraction is a key tool of the Enemy in our day.  Either way, the invitation for us in this journey to become better men and women surely involves how we are present in the moment’s of our daily life. Let me encourage you, make it a point to be present to God in the solitude and to people in the busy-ness.  Put down the phone, turn off the TV, and enter into what God is doing right here, right now.  

On the road with you, Stephen

Stephen is an Inspire Missioner, Methodist Minister, husband, and father of three girls, in Tennessee, USA

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