Few of my readers will be able to relate to this but, in my elementary years growing up in a small Upper Michigan town, every morning school classes began with the routine of “taking attendance.” This amounted to the teacher opening her ledger and, alphabetically, reading the name of each student at which time the pupil was to respond with “present.” Occasionally we would vary the response by saying, “here” but NEVER would we get away with a mere grunt or disrespectful, “yah.”
So, here I am on the morning of my 59th birthday. Most years I’ve nonchalantly coasted through the annual marker with a casual nod or “uh huh.” This year I’m “present.” I’ve been studying the attributes of whole-heartedness trying to uncover what makes some people seem fully alive while others pass through their days with a distracted grunt acknowledging that, yes, they’re still breathing, but not sure why.
One author describes whole-heartedness as “the capacity to give oneself thoroughly to the present moment.” I can picture Jesus being like that. As I read accounts of His busy days there are glimpses into “random” moments when a child or hurting stranger crossed His path and, in that moment, experienced the full attention of Someone who was very interested in them.
By contrast, when I am self-absorbed or occupied in a project, the most you should expect from me is a glance or, perhaps, slightly agitated acquiescence to whatever it is that you want. My body may happen to be “present” but my heart is somewhere else.
How to become whole-heartedly present in any given moment? I think, for me, it started with discovering (and choosing to live as though it was really true) that the indwelling Presence was, in fact, PRESENT -ready, any and every moment to connect consciously with me in conversation, comfort, counsel, etc.
As such, I began to realize that “getting stuff done” wasn’t the highest priority to Him. In fact, He rather insisted that I stop performing and producing at least one full day a week so we could just be together. I’ve never been very good at living that way -my identity (& income) has always been too wrapped up in accomplishments.
Sadly, I ended up barely noticing life passing me by -until (in my case) He gave me a heads up that life (as I’ve known it) may be coming to an end sooner than I thought. When I was first diagnosed with Primary Myelofibrosis (mid-July) and told that I may only have a few months to live, all my projected plans and priorities imploded.
Then, when it appeared that a bone marrow transplant could likely correct the problem and I might go on another 10-20 years, I dusted off some of the projects and felt as though I’d “dodged a bullet.”
Then, last week, when we discovered that, not only did I not have a sibling match for stem cells but that the success rate for such a procedure was closer to 15% given my symptoms, the “bullet” was still coming at me.
Yes, I’m benefiting from the prayers and meds -able to be up and about but not too active, but I also feel the wear and tear of my over-worked vital organs and know that each hour is a gift.
But perhaps the greatest “gift” I’ll experience today is that of enjoying PRESENCE. God’s presence, of course, but also my ability to be more fully present with my wife, children, grandchildren, and guests. I can only wish for you this gift -minus the circumstances that enabled me to receive it so whole-heartedly!
Happy birthday to me!