A LIFE OF PRESENCE

Lately, I have been learning to stay present.

It started, in a way, by necessity. Life is crowded, and the first thing to go is patience, contemplation. It seems our youngest always wakes up whenever I’m sitting down with coffee and my Bible. It took me too long to realize that God is available to us even when quiet time with Scripture is not.

However, there is a much more human problem at play. I like to live everywhere but now. I plan, worry, and work - and live my days entirely in the future. Or, I remember, regret, and wallow in shame - still stuck in the past. My drive to work. The time it takes to shower. The walk from my classroom to the copy machine. All of these, I know, are opportunities to take root and connect with the Vine, but I pass them as I usually do. Worry, planning, regretting. 

Days can pass this way. A life can pass this way. And mine was. I was on the fast track, I realized, to missing my entire life.

But God is a God of now. He is present tense. YHWH means, remember, I AM. And I am a creature still bound by time; I can only encounter God now.

I am finding similar principles at play in the practice of mindfulness, the simple practice of being aware. Of thoughts, emotions, and breathing. Of your senses, your Savior. Brother Lawrence advocated a similar practice of “turning the soul toward God” as often as possible, doing his best to go moment by moment through the day with an awareness of God’s presence. Like a sunflower turning to follow the sun, this practice can do much to orient our souls in I AM, in the now, no matter how frantic a given day may be, or how tempting the pull of worry and regret may be.

The approach requires that I be gracious with myself, because trying to be present and aware of God always means forgetting to do that often. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about doing what you can, and leaving each missed moment behind. Another is coming as regular as a heartbeat.

And so I am trying to be aware of the water on my scalp, the sound of the wind through a car window, my shoes on tile, the sacraments of grace and light that pervade my little life.

I am learning to be where I am. Because God is happening to me one moment at a time, now and now and now and now…


Tyler Russell lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Cat, and their 5 children where he teaches high school English and explores the connection between faith and art. His writing has appeared in Apiary Magazine and at RelevantMagazine.com, among others. He and his wife have also recently become active in the fight against human trafficking.