An Invitation to Be Present: learning to rest in God’s presence
I watched a movie recently on Netflix called About Time about a young man named Tim who learns that he comes from a family of time travelers. As Tim’s father shares with him, only the firstborn son of each family is endowed with this extraordinary gift, and Tim happens to be one of the lucky ones.
Or, not-so-lucky ones, depending on how you look at it.
It’s a charming film filled with light humor, love, sorrow, and the strength of a well-bound family. Near the end of the film *spoiler alert* Tim receives the devastating news that his father is dying. In a tear-jerking moment, Tim’s father offers up one final word of wisdom — “the secret to happiness” — as it pertains to life and time travel.
Live every day twice; once to allow the worries and tensions of the day to play out, and then again to slow down and notice the good within each moment.
To honor his father, Tim decides to take his advice and live each day twice. At least, for a little while. As the story progresses and time goes on, Tim concludes that it would be better to never time travel at all.
He decides, in the end, to live each day as if he already had.
Although the movie is a fiction tale, I can’t help but find a little bit of truth woven throughout. Tim’s final decision to live each day as if he already had is something we can all learn from and apply to our right now lives.
I believe his choice is an invitation that God extends to all of us each day.
An invitation to be present.
God With Us
To be present, by definition, means to exist or occur in a particular place right now. It means to be near, in attendance, available, or at hand.
Does this sound like anyone you know?
I’ll give you a little hint found in Matthew 1:23, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (NIV)
God is so ever-present that He came down from heaven in the form of a man just to be with us. Jesus’ life, His ministry, is a wonderful testimony to how present He was to His Heavenly Father, Himself, and those around Him. And still today, Jesus is in the right now moments of our lives — always at hand, always with us — and invites us to be present to Him, ourselves, and those around us.
In theory, it sounds wonderfully simple. But how do we practice being present amidst a world designed to distract and deter us?
Come Away for a While
One of my favorite things about Jesus’ ministry is that He “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16 NIV)”. Even at the peak of His ministry where it’s recorded that large crowds would follow Him and press in tightly just to touch the hem of His cloak to be healed (Matthew 14:35-36), Jesus still made rest a priority.
Jesus’ words to His disciples in Mark 6:31 are like water to my thirsty soul, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (NIV)
Just as Jesus extended the invitation of rest and refreshment to His disciples, He extends it to us today. He knows that we can’t face the chaos and trouble that each day may hold if we are not first seeking rest in His presence.
Jesus knows that to be present to what He is calling us to, we must first be spiritually well-fed. It’s in the quiet of solitude with God that we find rest for our souls. It’s where we find a safe place to lay our heavy burdens down so we can be equipped to face what He’s requiring of us in this season.
The invitation to rest is an invitation to be present to what God is doing right now.
I believe God invites us to make resting in His presence a daily rhythm so that we can be present to His presence. But this sacred practice of coming away for while to be with Christ must be something we intentionally pursue and prioritize. So, let’s unpack three different ways we can manifest the rhythm of rest into our everyday lives.
Find a Faith-Based Retreat Center
Silent retreat centers can be found all over the nation and are designed to provide you with rest and refreshment in God’s presence. They typically consist of outdoor walking grounds where you can unplug and connect with God through nature. Some retreat centers even offer rooms for rent for a day or longer so you can make space for stillness, silence, and solitude with the Lord.
If a silent retreat center is something you are unfamiliar with, some centers offer guided retreat experiences that are typically a weekend in length or longer. You typically register for your spot online and when you arrive, there will be a leader there to guide you through the experience and help usher you into connection and rest with the Creator.
Take a Walk
If a silent retreat center isn’t your jam or you don’t have one nearby, maybe there’s a wooded trail near your home where you can get alone with God and talk to Him as you walk. Even a short, simple walk through your neighborhood may be just what your soul needs to get away for a while from the clutter of your everyday routine.
George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist and inventor; a man who spent a lot of time outside. He was once quoted saying,
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
As you unburden your heart in the presence of God and His creation and receive His presence with you, your soul and steps will grow lighter. His creation — the earth on which we stand — isn’t just meant to be used or taken for granted but received as a gift in which we behold more of Him.
Carve Out Some Quiet Time
Quiet time consists of uninterrupted time alone in God’s presence. This can be done anywhere, at any time that works for you and your schedule. For me, my quiet time routine typically takes place in the morning before my day begins. I make tea, light a candle, and open my time up with the Lord with five minutes of silence as I extend my hands and invite the Holy Spirit into my sacred space.
Your quiet time might consist of Bible reading, prayer, or stillness as you sit with God and learn to simply be. Or perhaps a little of all three! There’s no right or wrong way to spend time with the Lord. The point is to seek out rest as you learn to lean into Him.
The Slow Way
As we learn to rest and come away for a while with God, we learn to be present to Him. And as we learn to be present to the Lord, He equips us to be present to ourselves and others. We begin to behold more of Christ within everything and we are given eyes to see all the ways in which He is moving.
Creating a rhythm of rest in God’s presence paves the way to a slower way of living. We see throughout Christ’s ministry on earth that He always allowed Himself to be interrupted. He never rushed but always remained present to what the task at hand was in each moment. He was gentle and present with each person, patient, and kind rather than annoyed or inconvenienced.
Jesus walked at a slow pace and He calls us to walk at this pace with Him as instructed in Matthew 11:28-30, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)
There is nothing rushed or hurried about unforced rhythms of grace. This way of life — the slow way of life — by definition, is natural. It’s not produced by effort, not compelled or constrained. There is only a gentle, quiet call to walk steadily with God’s Spirit as He molds our hearts to look more like His.
This narrow way of walking is marked by brokenness, imperfection, and an overflow of mercy and it is where we find the real in a world filled with fake. It is the only way to find the courage and grace to live each day as if we already had.
A Prayer to Be Present
As we learn to rest and be present to the happenings of Christ in our everyday lives, may we always remember that it is He within us who enables us forward. It is God who supplies the strength and time needed to continually reach for Him and this slow, present way of being.
Father, God, I surrender my desire to rush ahead and lay down this habit of a hurried life. Instead, I choose to seek your unforced rhythms of grace. I intentionally pursue your presence and ask for rest and refreshment for my tired, weary soul. As I rest, teach me to be present to your ever-present presence.
You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees (Psalm 119:68 NIV), and may your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant (Psalm 119:76 NIV).
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