Being Present: My Word for 2022


Here’s Being Present: My Word for 2022

Every year I choose a word that I want to focus on in the coming year. It’s similar to a New Year’s resolution, but it’s easier to remember and is not goal-focused or measurable. It’s less about doing and more about becoming, which I recognize is chiefly the work of the Holy Spirit. So while I choose the word, I’m dependent on God to do the work in my life. For my part, I try to keep the word before me every day by writing it on my daily prayer card, spelling it out on blocks in my office, and telling my family so they can remind me (hopefully gently) when it’s apparent I’m forgetting.

While I’ve seen real change through these words I’ve chosen, often that change has been imperceptibly slow. Yet I’ve learned to, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” One year I chose the word “charitable” and tried to see the best in people when my first response is often critical. Another year I had “overlook” so that I wouldn’t carry around resentment and would overlook minor offenses. Last year I had the phrase, “God is using this” to remind myself that even when things weren’t going the way I wanted or planned, God was using it for my good and his glory.

At the end of last year, I saw my need to show up more fully in all areas of my life — so my word for 2022 is present.

Being present to God

My prayer life is where this word began, as I caught myself mindlessly going over my prayer list, mouthing prayers without acknowledging I was talking to God. I was in too much of a hurry to slow down and be intentional about my prayers. I have bursts of passionate prayer, but often settle back into skimming my prayer list and saying a few halfhearted words. I forget that the God of the universe is listening to me and that I don’t need to repeat meaningless phrases. I have God’s attention and he acts on the words that I speak. They matter.

When I was in a painful place many years ago, I learned the importance of being present to God while reading the Bible. I saw how the Word can transform us when we are fully present to what we are reading, allowing the Spirit of God to speak through it. I occasionally still find myself reading without processing, which prompts me to pray Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” That simple prayer brings me back to the text and has often illuminated a passage that I had previously skimmed.  

I also want to be present to God throughout the day, recognizing his presence. Not just in the morning as I am reading and praying but as I go about my day. Someone said to me a few years ago, “God is always talking to us but are we listening?” It is in the stillness and quiet that I often hear God’s still small voice, a voice that I miss when I’m frantically rushing through my day.

Being present to my life

I’m not always present to my own life. This means that I don’t pay attention to how I’m feeling and put off self-care. When I’m exhausted, I usually don’t take a nap because I’d rather just push through with an afternoon cup of coffee — which isn’t a healthy way to live with post-polio and increasing fatigue. I’m happy to report that I’ve taken an afternoon nap a few times this week, which is a start!

In addition to my body, I want to be more present to my emotions that I tend to brush off. Frederick Buechner’s words keep challenging me: “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.”

God speaks to us through our tears, but are we paying attention to them or trying to stifle them?

For years I prided myself on my ability to multitask so I could accomplish more. I want to be present to the very moment I’m living in now, noticing what’s around me, experiencing everything the Lord has for me. In that very moment.

Being present to others

Lastly, I want to be present to the people I am with – fully engaged in what they’re saying rather than hearing their words while my heart and mind are preoccupied with other things. All too often I’m partially listening and later scarcely remember the conversation beyond a few snippets. This was embarrassingly evident when a friend was sharing the events of the year. In the end, I asked about her parents, and she said, “I told you last time we talked that my dad had died.” I was mortified. Yes, she had. I had heard that information on one level but had not really processed it or remembered it.

I watched a documentary on Mr. Rogers last year and was struck by how present he was to whomever he was with. No one was incidental. Everyone mattered. He saw people fully, paid attention to what they were saying and what they were not saying, which led to significant change in them.

The greatest model of being truly present and intentional is Jesus, who was never in a hurry and was fully engaged with everyone he encountered. Even the people he met when he was on the way to do an urgent task were never brushed aside. Jesus saw everyone as important, and he saw them as part of his mission, not impediments to accomplish the important work God had called him to. We see that as he met blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), called Zacchaeus down (Luke 19:1-10), healed the woman with the constant bleeding (Mark 5:24-34), met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) and told the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) among many others. To be present as Jesus was means not just being available to those we love but to whomever God brings across our path, even people we might be predisposed to avoid.

As I write this, I’m a little overwhelmed. I have no power in myself to be present to these things because some of what I’ve written represents a radical shift in the way I live. Yet I’m trusting God, the One who brings life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist, to bring slow change into my life.

What about you? Do you have a word for 2022? Where are you trusting God to bring about slow change in you?

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