Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Gift of a Moment: Being Present

Sheila McJilton 
This morning, I took off my glasses to read something (not a good sign, I know), then wandered into another room. When I realized I could not see well, I went to search. Now if you are as near-sighted as I am, you understand my dilemma. Sometimes I lay my watch down, then later have to go find it. But it’s a lot easier to find my watch with my glasses on than it is to find my glasses with my watch on!

Misplacing either item means I have been both multi-tasking, resulting in absentmindedness. This really means that I am distracted, not really living in the present moment.

Recently, the gospel focused on Mary and Martha. Martha was distracted by many things, unable to be fully in the present at Jesus’ feet. (Practical observation: if both women had sat down to listen, no dinner would ever have been served!) However, Jesus’ response to Martha makes it clear that as disciples, we first have to be willing to BE in Jesus’ presence and to be grounded in his teachings before we can DO what Jesus did in the world.

It is crucial to be fully present in the moments of our lives. Someone recommended a book to me recently: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life by Joanna Weaver. Our 21st century world is a Martha world. We live in a constant barrage of noise, anxiety and living ahead—whether due to e-mails, Facebook, phone calls or the Twitter universe. There is almost no place we can go “off the grid,” unless we make a deliberate decision to do that. I am as guilty as anyone of being chained to a calendar and iPhone. I find that if I put an Automatic Reply on my e-mail for a Sabbath Day, it takes a lot of intentionality.

However, since I began to read this book, I have worked on being in the moment. I have begun to practice the habit of mindfulness as I do my morning prayers and scripture reading. I have attempted to sit quietly, even for five minutes, being aware of the chair in which I sit, the sounds of the birds outside, the sounds of trucks and cars on my street, my own breath. I have tried not to multi-task. If you have ever gone from multi-tasking to sitting quietly for five minutes and doing “nothing,” you will see what a challenge this is. 

I do think God calls me to do this, though. Like you, I do not have the gift of any moment except this moment, no hour but this hour, no day but this one. They are God’s gifts. We would do well to savor each one, to unwrap them slowly, to live fully into them, and then to thank God. In living so, we can then be better gifts to ourselves, to those we love, to the Church and to the world.

Sheila McJilton is the rector at St. Philip's, Laurel. Share your reactions and comments on Facebook.