Being present is something I think our culture struggles with every day. We are in a conversation but our minds are elsewhere, or we are in a meeting at work and our minds are distracted. We are so overwhelmed with information and media and busy schedules that it can be difficult to focus on the task at hand, even for me.
Think about it…
Have you ever been in a situation where you are constantly thinking about being somewhere else other than where you physically are? I began a new book by Lois Tverberg “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus” and came across an interesting thought on a passage from Exodus.
In Exodus 24:12 God has summoned Moses up to the mountain. “The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” While we look at this as Moses going up to the mountain to wait, rabbinic commentary on this would read more like “Come up to me on the mountain and be here.” Oddly enough one would think that Moses is already there if he came up to the mountain. Our English would translate it as “stay here” or “wait there”.
Rabbi Mendel, a nineteenth-century rabbi, had spun a sermon from this passage. He commented “If a person exerts and ascends to the summit, it is possible to reach it, while not being there. He stands on the summit of the mountain, but his head is somewhere else.” It is possible to go somewhere and not really be there. It is entirely possible to spend a lot of money and time to get to a destination while your thoughts remain at the original point of departure. The rabbi imagined God telling Moses not only to come up Mount Sinai but to be there fully, with complete attention and concentration. As if on this momentous occasion of giving Moses the covenant, God wanted Moses to be there in body, mind, and spirit.
This is great advice for our own time and culture…
As Tverberg points out, “this is very helpful advice for reading the Bible. As you read, do your best to be there. In our cellphone-saturated world, some of us need to go into airplane mode and detox so our heads quit buzzing, just so we can think straight.” As hard as it is, we have to be present in our walk with God. It doesn’t “just happen”. It takes intentionality and purposeful decisions to stay engaged with our heavenly Father.