Practicing Presence in a “Just Get It Done!” World

Thomas Blevins

Are you often distracted? Working too hard? Too Busy? Worried and Upset?

I am an iPhone, iMac and iPad user. In our home, we have super-duper, fiber-optic, and frugal  low-speed internet. Netflix is like a member of the family. Calendars are shared with each other -- in the Cloud, of course. Our car runs self-diagnostic tests and then reports to the GMC service department. I manage my medical records online and pay the mortgage electronically. Being this practical and efficient should also bring more time to be present to others, right? If I’m gut-level honest, though, all this just leaves me more distracted, busier, and frequently worried and upset.

With so many simplifying technologies and life-giving systems, why am I not freer to be present with God or the people who He has placed in my path? Looking up from tablets and phones and taking the time to actually look into another's eyes creates a very real pressure in me: a fear that I will be left behind in the fast-paced, always-changing, survival-mode world of "Just get it done!" How do I find hope to become more present to others?

Then, I recall a story from the Gospels. Long before the internet, a woman named Martha wrestled with this same issue (Luke 10, John 12). She and her sister, Mary, welcomed Jesus and his disciples into their home, and Martha immediately felt pressure to create a space suitable for such significance. And why not? After all, Jesus had brought her brother Lazarus back from the dead!

Martha's sincere hospitality and preparation of a remarkable feast must have surely fed her hopes that Jesus would never want to leave. To accomplish all this, she became overwhelmed with the work to be done. When Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet, Martha "called her out" for not rolling up her sleeves and helping. She even told Jesus, God incarnate, to make Mary help her. Note that, in the same room, Lazarus had just kicked back on the recliner!

But then something interesting happened. Jesus turned to Martha and said, “…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed -- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42 NIV). In the middle of Martha's distraction, frustration, and straight-up mess, Jesus compassionately invited her away from her “Just get it done!” moment. He called her into His presence, which is where she most needed to be and the one space she could always rest assured would never be taken from her!

Every moment of every day, just as with Mary and Martha, each one of us is invited into the presence of Jesus and of those who He considers precious. Make the choice to take time from the work that consumes or from the technology that distracts. Set aside the drive to be busy, or the tendency to be upset or worried. Use that freed-up time to give yourself what you truly need -- presence with others, with yourself, and above all, with the One who resurrects the dead and brings abundant life to the living.

Accept His invitation today. It's what you truly need. It is better. It also carries His unconditional assurance that it will never be taken from you.