Practicing Presence

This was first published in the Fellowship Church eNews on 2018-02-28.

In high school I was a trumpet player. Trumpet players have a brash and brazen reputation, like the sound of the instrument itself. There are, in fact, hundreds of jokes that highlight this stereotype. For example:

Q: How many lead trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Fifty. One to do it and the others to stand around and say, “I could do that better.

Not only was I a trumpet player, I was the first chair trumpet player. Being first chair means that you literally sit in the first chair of the section of instruments. You get this spot by being able to play the assigned music or scales better than the rest of the people in the section.

I discovered that by being just a bit better than the rest of the players in my section I could earn first chair. I did not need to be the best in the world, just a bit better than everyone around me. Over the past few years, I have reflected on how unhealthy this viewpoint was. Rather than seeking to be the best I could personally attain in order to help the band, inspire others, and grow my skills, I was limiting my development to the level of those around me. This was an act of pride as I sought recognition and status.

This past Sunday Pastor Lindsay preached a sermon based on John 13:1-17 where we see a way of being that is the opposite of pride. Jesus intentionally put himself as a servant to the disciples by washing their feet. He literally postures himself below his disciples. He then challenges them to do the same with one another. Pastor Lindsay highlighted that this act required the disciples to let Jesus serve them and demonstrated how to love and be loved.

I often feel like pride and shame get in the way of being able to selflessly love others or receive the love of others. I think of pride and shame as:

  • pride = look at me, I deserve it
  • shame = don’t look at me, I am worthless

For me the alternative to pride and shame is presence. Presence requires me to fully participate in the world by paying attention to God, others, and myself. It often forces me into uncomfortable situations where I have to respond rather than react, receive rather than control, and feel rather than shield.

What might it look like to not raise yourself above others or to hide from them and instead fully experience life abundantly in Christ by staying present, selflessly loving others, and humbly receiving love?

In the coming days read about this counter-cultural life in Romans 12 and think of how you might apply it to your life and relationships. Here are a few highlights:

  • (2) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
  • (9) Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
  • (10) Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other
  • (16b) Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
  • (20) If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.

Read the rest of Romans 12 here