Have you ever been at a party or the pub and suddenly wished you were back home in bed? Then, just as you head for the door to leave, you suddenly spot someone you didn't have a clue was there. Here you are at this party and a good friend is there and you never realised it because you were far too preoccupied with who you are with or your mind was working on an exit strategy.
Just the other day, I was on my hands and knees with my 9-year-old playing Lego. We were both building a spacecraft for a good while. I have to admit, I think mine was the best Lego spacecraft the cosmos has probably seen in a good 30 years. As we sat there Isaac starts saying to me, “hello, are you there?” Of course I was. We were sitting no more than a couple of feet from one another. “But Daddy I’ve been talking to you about the Ninja Turtles for twenty minutes and you’re not listening”. He was right, I was present but I wasn't present.
I was present yet absent at the same time.
There is a wonderful moment in the Exodus story when God tells Moses to come up onto the mountain and ‘stay on the mountain’. It’s here that God gives Moses the two stones marked with the commandments. What’s interesting with this story is the English translation of the Bible doesn’t do justice to the original language.
Exodus 24:12 should read something like, “come up the mountain and be” but that doesn't make much sense in English. There is a Hebrew word heye, that, in the English translation we render as “stay with me,” but would be closer as “be”.
God tells Moses to come up the mountain and be with him. Well isn’t that obvious God, if Moses has come up the mountain then surely he’s going to be with you. In truth, God knows best and he knew that he needed to tell Moses something important. God knew that once Moses arrived on the mountaintop he would already be planning his route home. He’d be making lists of jobs, people to see, birthday cards to send, bills to pay and what he was going to eat next.
All of us are too quick to be move on, head someplace new and not remain present in God’s presence.
God wanted Moses to be present in his presence.
Sometimes we say God showed up at church tonight and other times we say God wasn't in it. What we mean is I showed up tonight or I wasn't in it. We are the ones who choose to be absent or present.
Often, we hope for God to ‘show up’ in our church worship or personal prayer time. Yet, the reality is that God is already present. He is available. More than that, he wants us to rest, be held, meet, recover, recharge, hear and become aware of him! God desires us to experience his presence, his protection, his power, his provision and his peace not someplace else, but present here.
Like the father of the prodigal son story, he is there simply waiting for us to show up. It is we who must become aware of him. We must become present to the presence of God.
Matthew 11:28 reads, "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”. Wow, weary, burdened...most of us fit this criteria, don't we? We are tired and weighed down. But, so often we overlook Jesus’ invitation to make ourselves come into his presence.
Sometimes we are distracted from God’s presence by our preoccupation with things in the world around us that seem more real but aren’t. We can be preoccupied with money, women, mates, the football league tables or the new episode of a baking program. Other times we become engrossed in our own thoughts—responsibilities, worries, irritations and preoccupations. Amidst the distractions of our lives we are absent from the one relationship that can offer us rest and sustenance. Jesus says, “come to me, all you who are weighed down and tired”. Come isn’t about God moving, it’s about us moving. It’s about us moving in our awareness of what is already there.
“BE still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Stop thinking about for what you’re doing next, who you need to call or email. Don't think about where you’re going or what you’re eating. Be present here.
Sometimes we can't sense God's presence because there is too much of everything else going on too much noise, too much traffic, too much confusion, too many thoughts running rampant in our minds, too much anxiety, too much worry.
Be still and focus your mind on Him and start to breathe deeply.
Exhale the distracting thoughts.
Inhale a desire to sense His presence.
Exhale your pre-occupation with yourself.
Inhale a desire to know God more completely.
Exhale the worries of the moment.
Inhale His peace.
Can you begin to sense that you're in His arms?
“BE still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).