A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stay a couple of nights with my grandmother while I attended a conference. We had some wonderful chats. I especially love hearing her recount her memories of being the second to the oldest child of 14 children, growing up on a farm in the mountains of North Georgia. As these stories are shared, she smiles softly as she attributes so much of the joys and hardships of life being sustained only by the supreme faithfulness of God.
These past few months have proven difficult for her as she has watched my grandfather, her husband of 67 years, progress into the advance stages of Parkinson’s disease. About a year ago, the difficult decision was made to place him in a care facility. In recalling the travesty of these past few months, Nanny made a statement I have reflected upon much as of late. “You know, his last few months here, he slept a lot, and there were times we really didn’t even talk much. But most of all, I miss his presence…”
Creation was not complete until God determined that a community must exist. It is with awe and wonder as I ponder how He fashioned humanity to hold the capacity of such loving community that undoubtedly reflects the kinship held by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. What an awe-inspiring life we may lead in lieu of this wonder!
But I can’t help but wonder, do we really know when such a community is missing in our lives? As the Body of Christ, do we miss His Presence when we go through the motions each time we meet together? Are we so focused on talking in prayer that we have forgotten what is like to just be in His Presence during a designated prayer time? Have I failed to recognize or even acknowledge “missing” His Presence?
On a personal level, I have seen firsthand what presence can do to transform a child. Naomi was very closed when she first landed in our arms. The next few weeks proved to be a time of adjustment and caution as she so obviously sought to figure out what a family can offer. And then, one day, this whole idea of “presence” began to embody her persona and ours. I think I will rephrase in the context here “presence” to love. After all, in I John 4, God is love. God transforms. Love transforms.
Naomi’s shell has somehow chipped away with trust and transformative love. The gloominess of her expressions lifted like gray clouds to reveal a radiant smile. And there has also been the lingering. Lingering to hear another book read, beckoning with eagerness for another kiss on the cheek, demanding in her own way yet another provocation for laughter. Love heals.
My Iphone4s shattered over a month ago. Besides the initial frustration of losing all of my contacts and realizing how much I depended on this phone as my “go to” for organization, I also ashamedly realized something else. I have come to realize how much I have “missed” in not only the presence of my children and husband, but how much I have missed being fully present. Have you ever stopped to marvel at how this “beep” or that “ding” can somehow draw you away from whatever task you are doing? On a humorous note, it almost reminds me of those old cartoons where the characters are drawn away to a house nearby, often levitating in the air because of the smell of a pie that just came out of the oven.
I was two months shy of an upgrade, and now I somehow question whether this will be necessary. I don’t want to be present to a screen, but not attentive to the big blue eyes of my 6 year old showing me a bug. All of the times I have missed the presence of the community God has given me because of the presence of a screen, I grieve. And yet, with the simplification of my “dumb phone” (as I affectionately call it), I find my own self coming out of shell plagued by distraction.
It is truly a fight, isn’t it? To be present. To love. To be loved. But oh how precious a present love to be received and offered can be! I think my Nanny Griffis was on to something with her simple and profound statement. May the power of Christ’s love transform us all to be molded into His likeness.
But we all, with uncovered face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. –II Corinthians 3:18