Presence...this word has different meanings depending on the context it's used in. If I were to say that someone had the presence of mind to take action in a difficult situation, it would mean that their mind was present in that moment. In other words, their mind wasn't wandering off somewhere else. They were mentally engaged where they were at and because of this, they were able to think quickly and take appropriate action. Then there is the word presence used in the context of a request to be somewhere. We see this often in the form of an invitation, it may read "Your presence is requested". In this context a person's physical presence is being asked for. They are being asked to attend something, to spend time at an event. Finally, the word presence can be used in reference to a feeling you get when you are around someone. Perhaps you've heard someone say, "He has a presence about him." or "He brings a certain presence with him when he walks into the room." As I ponder the many uses of the word presence, the same questions keep coming back to me. Is my presence a present? Would other people in my life who have spent time in my presence, consider my presence in their lives a gift?
My mom had a saying that used to really annoy me when I was a kid. Whenever I wanted to watch something on tv or listen to some music that likely wasn't good for me she would say, "Input, output! What goes in is what comes out!" I probably was more annoyed because I knew that was her final word on things and I wouldn't get my way, than with the saying itself. Now that I am older I see the truth in what she said, and I think it relates directly to what kind of presence we have. My mom knew that lyrics to songs, bad behavior, and bad language would linger in the recesses of my heart and mind long after the tv show or song was over. She also knew that whether I realized it or not, it could effect my thinking and behavior. Much like she wanted to feed me healthy food that would fuel my body and was good for me, she wanted to do the same for my heart and mind. So what does this have to do with presence?
The presence we have is dependent upon whose presence we are spending time in. If the bulk of our time is spent on social media, watching television, spending time with people who gossip, spending time with people who freely judge others, spending time with people who complain, spending time with people who despise God, or spending time with people who are racist...to name a few, we will become like them. What we put in is what will come out...even if we don't mean for it to happen. This will cause us to bring an unwelcome presence with us wherever we go. Our presence will no longer be a gift. People will see us coming and make excuses as to why they can't spend time with us. People will find our presence to be draining and will likely feel exhausted when they are done being in our presence. I know this isn't what I want. I don't want to drain people or have them run the other way when they see me coming! So how do we remedy that? How do we prevent it?
We need to spend time in God's presence. Spending time in God's presence gives us the opportunity to take all of our thoughts, feelings, fears, failures, hurts, hang ups, and questions to Him. There's no need to put on a front with Him. We can come into His presence rough around the edges and let Him do the polishing. We can bring all these things that we have input into our lives and ask Him to change the output. If we let Him He will change our negative thoughts into thoughts filled with hope, love, and mercy for ourselves as well as others. If we let Him, He will replace our fears with peace and show us how to rely on Him for courage to face the future. He will open our eyes to see that our failures were really not failures at all, but opportunities for growth. He can heal our hurts and set us free from our hang-ups. In His hands, our questions become catalysts to go deeper in relationship with Him as we search for answers. Spending time in His presence has a way of changing us from the inside out. We no longer see things the same way. I think it's because He loves us so well. When we spend time in His presence we experience His love for us first hand...and it's life changing. When we input His love it opens our eyes so that we can see clearly.We no longer view others the same way. We see them through the lens of God's love and it effects all of our interactions with them. It's then that we truly see it... if we want our own presence to be a gift, then we need to output His love. I believe His love flowing out of us in our interactions with others, is the difference between people feeling drained by our presence or people feeling refreshed by our presence. It's allowing His presence and love within us, to change us... that changes everything!
Presence...a word with several different meanings. Yet it strikes me that this one meaning seems to matter most. If we want our presence to be a present...then we need to spend time with the Ultimate Gift Giver- God. This is the only way that we can become a gift to others. In becoming a gift to others, we become most like Jesus who has been such an incredible gift to us. Isn't this what we really want anyway...to be a gift that points others toward the Ultimate Gift Giver?