Practicing Presence: Lessons from Liberia

I’ll admit, it has taken me time and will continue to take me time, to process the things that God is teaching me as a result of my recent trip to Liberia. And it was this past week during a Live2Lead Seminar that I realized this: Liberia taught me more deeply about the need to linger in another’s presence.

In Liberia, there were times that I sat with my friend Naomi. (She’s in all the attached photos and isn’t she stunning?!) Sometimes there were very few words spoken, but there was a presence. Her presence. Her hopes and dreams. Her longings for God. Her curiosity about me. And there was God, working both in us and around us. And there was joy, the kind of joy that comes from sitting with someone you care about.

And for us there were also times of focussed concentration as together we attempted to draw botanical flowers. (I had brought a drawing book with me.) Initially I had decided to stay home on the day the team had intended to go Monrovia because I was nervous about being stuck in a car in hot (never been to a place so hot and humid!) weather. And because I had made the decision to stay home I had asked Naomi if she wanted to spend time learning together. Then the team’s plans changed, and they were going to the ocean. I wanted to go to the ocean! But I had given my word, so I stayed back.

In hindsight I realize how selfish it was to even consider rescheduling or canceling my time with Naomi and, if I had postponed or canceled,  I would have missed out on something special. I would have missed out on Naomi’s laughter when comparing our artistry. (I suck.) I would have missed out on watching her eyes light up when she beheld the flower she wanted to draw.  I would have missed out on seeing her never-give-up attitude. I would have missed out on being in the presence of someone whom God loves with an everlasting love. I would have missed a lesson that has continued to shape me since coming home.

You see I want to be more present in my own life. I want to be present with the people who are currently within reach – within my ability to embrace and look in the eye.  I’ve discovered in the weeks since being home that social media and trying to “keep up” with everyone all over the globe is more than I can do. I can’t like every post, read every update, or post on several different platforms.  So here’s my change: I am drastically reducing the time I spend on social media reading and responding. You see, I learned from Naomi that I want to look at your facial expressions, to hear your tone when you speak, and I also wish to have heart and head capacity to linger in your presence – even if for just a few minutes. I don’t want to be distracted!

So let me challenge you with a few reflection questions – they are ones I am also asking myself.  Is my energy and attention being dragged away by things that are not healthy for me? When I set up a coffee or tea time with a friend, am I attentive to the relationship or am I distracted? If I’m distracted, what’s the source of my distraction? Am I asking God how I might serve those he loves?

Action this week: Be intentional to get rid of at least one distraction so you can be more present in your life.

 

 

 

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