By Kelly Smith
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Not many things motivate me to reach into a toilet. Through a series of mishaps involving my potty training three-year-old, his blankie, and my phone, my most prized electronic device took the plunge. My floating phone was enough to make me reach into the germ-infested water without so much as an, “Eww, gross!”
After the reflexive rescue mission, I powered down the phone, cleaned it off (because, eww, gross!), and buried it in rice. It only took a few minutes for me to miss it. I tried to keep myself busy, but wondered if my phone would emerge from the rice fully restored.
The quiet hours that followed revealed something about my soul: I am not accustomed to an unplugged life. Even with self-imposed boundaries in place, I am distracted by so many things. Podcasts and audiobooks play in the background. Rotating messages to and from friends keep me connected. I scan Twitter for headlines and Instagram for photos.
In the meantime, life happens all around me. While I stay entertained, informed, and socially connected, I miss the people right in front of me—my husband, my children, a mom at the park, the stranger in line. With the world at my fingertips, I miss the world I live in.
Do you find it difficult to be fully present? Do dings and flashing messages draw you away from your people? Or maybe it is a lengthy to-do list or demands from your job that distract you.
Even without modern technology, distractions were inherent in Jesus’s ministry. Matthew 9 gives us an example of Jesus’s typical day. While in the middle of a discussion about his identity with John’s disciples, Jairus, a local ruler, cut in and asked Jesus to heal his sick daughter.
He was interrupted again as he traveled to Jairus’s house. A sick woman touched his hem. He stopped and spoke to her, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matt. 9:22 ESV).
After healing the woman, Jesus went to Jairus’s house, where he took the dead girl’s hand and told her to wake up. As he left the house, two blind men followed him and cried out for healing. Instead of offering them healing on the spot, he went to their house and healed them. Next a demon-possessed, mute man came to him. Jesus cast that demon out.
That’s not all: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction” (Matt. 9:35 ESV).
If you lost count, Jesus encountered five significant distractions in one day (and these are the just the ones Matthew recorded in his gospel). In each situation, Jesus was fully present with the people in front of him. He made eye contact, he listened to them, he journeyed with them, and he met their needs. The gift of his presence brought healing and peace.
My phone survived the plunge, but I came through the experience changed. I am on a mission to minimize the distractions I allow in my life. I place my phone out of reach while in the car and leave it in there when I go into a restaurant. Establishing quiet, technology-free times leaves me fully available to my family. A few small changes results in more meaningful conversations with my husband, more laughter with my kids, and greater personal contentment.
Jesus gave the gift of his presence. Our presence has the potential to bring healing and peace to those around us. Giving people our full attention is worth turning off the phone and releasing the to-do list.
Jesus, thank you for your example of being present in the middle of busyness. While we may feel ill-equipped to minister like you did, we certainly have the gift of presence to offer to those around us. Help us to tune out distractions and be fully present with others.
Scripture for Reflection
“And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David.’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’ And their eyes were opened.” (Matt. 9:27-30 ESV)
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11 ESV)
Reach for More
Today is a great day to be fully present with the people around you. Try these strategies to limit distractions:
- Remove social media apps from your smartphone.
- Turn off notifications for messaging and social media apps.
- Put your laptop and phone in a back room, away from family areas.
- Pick the top three things on your to-do list and let the rest wait.
- During drive time and dinner time, let phone calls go to voice mail.
Offer the gift of your presence:
- Color with your kids.
- Take your teenager out to dinner and leave your phones in the car.
- Enjoy a cup of coffee with your spouse before you check your email.
- Ask service people (cashiers, waitresses, etc.) how they are and listen to their responses.
- Talk to the mom beside you at the park as you both push swings.
Please, come back and leave a comment telling us about how God spoke to you this week, or share your progress on social media using the hashtag #tgtreachformore. We would love to hear from you.
Kelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man. They have three children. In the quiet minutes of her day, you will find her at the keyboard or curled up with a book–always with coffee. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.
Photograph © Adriano de Gironimo, used with permission