I get told a lot that these years with littles goes by quick. And the more I live it, the more I realize it is true. I want to be present.
When things get hard, I don’t want to miss out on the gifts in front of me, just because I’m also longing for something different. I want to be present.
I don’t want to be a person who spends too much time on her phone. I don’t want to miss out on real living because I’m spending looking at a screen. I want to be present.
I could go on and on, but the value of presence comes up all over my life. I want to show up, not just for the good and easy but for the hard and painful. I want to experience all of my life. And I think that is so often what Jesus asks me to do.
As I read Matthew 6 the other day, I was struck by the theme of being present in Jesus’ call not to worry. Being present in an act of trust, as we don’t spend time fretting about things like food or clothes. We show up to our life today. We trust Jesus with tomorrow. We do the next thing in front of us, like it’s our job. And it just so happens, it is. Living today is a big enough job for any of us. And we can trust tomorrow to our good, good Father.
But somewhere along the way of trying to live in the present, I adopted some ideas that don’t match what I think Jesus meant for me. Even as I say them outloud, I know how “wrong” they are. But they still seem to have crept into my heart and started to bully me around.
There’s a voice in my head that says that being a stay-at-home mom is a gift and to prove it, I should be enjoying every single moment of today. But when I fail to enjoy a tantrum or poop or fussiness, I feel like I am failing to be present.
There’s a voice in my head that says I should be grateful for the hard things and not cry over “silly” disappointments, like being sick on my daughter’s birthday. I should look for the good and not grieve the Hard.
That voice piles on guilt and shame, bullying my soul into believing that being present means I have to like what is happening to me today.
There is no love or kindness or grace in this voice, which is how I know it isn’t from Jesus. This voice is a bully and brings guilt and shame. This voice tells me I’m a failure and that I’ve really screwed things up. This voice tells me the only way through is to muscle my way, pulling up my bootstraps and making things happen.
But the truth that Jesus reminds me over and over again is that being present doesn’t mean that at all. Being present is brave and hard because it so often means entering into the full experience of what it is to be human. Sometimes that is lovely. Sometimes it is hellish. Sometimes it is mundane. But my job isn’t to get a certain result or to manufacture a certain feeling to be present. My job is to show up and trust Jesus with the rest.
There’s some Hard for me this particular week. And as I’m doing my best to be present, I’m realizing how much I would prefer having a formula to get a certain result or that I could check my feelings against what it is supposed to feel like, to prove that I’m doing it right.
But instead, Jesus keeps asking me not to get ahead. Not to wonder how I’ll make it until the weekend. Not to worry about how to manage the Hard. Not to force things or manufacture a certain response.
He is asking me to be present. And this week it looks like this-
It looks like crying when I’m grieved or hurting.
It looks like not letting my day be ruined by the Hard and still enjoying hot coffee and German pancakes for breakfast.
It looks like praying and breathing and continuing to show up.
It looks like doing the next thing.
It looks like reminding myself that the Lord’s opinion of me is the only one that counts.
It looks like holding hands in the car and humming along to the song playing.
It looks like whispering truth to my own heart, preaching what is real, over and over and over again.
It looks like pausing and saying thank you for the grace.
It looks like banana chips and sunshine at the park.
It looks like being flexible with my expectations and what my current reality actually is.
It looks like asking others to pray for me.
It looks like being kind to myself and others.
It looks like naptime.
It looks like a slower pace and not rushing about.
It looks like leftovers for dinner and cookies and milk with our happy girl.
It looks like inviting Jesus into the best and the worst of it, the messes and the tears, the sweetness and grace.
It looks like showing up to now.
And that’s why being present is so hard AND why I think Jesus calls us to it.
We don’t get to control it. We don’t get to make it look a certain way. And we certainly don’t get to bully ourselves into proving or “shoulding” or performing.
We just get to show up to whatever is in front of us. And as much as I’d like the control of my present being ALL good or ALL bad, even on a Hard week, it always a mix of both.
There’s my heart full to brim when I get a toddler smash face hug. There’s my heart aching and tears falling when the Hard rears its head. There’s the gratitude in my heart for sharing a steaming cup of hazelnut coffee with my kind husband. There’s the breathing through and praying for courage as I do the thing in front of me. It is both/and. I don’t have to like it all to show up. It is okay to cry and laugh only moments apart. It is okay to grieve things that are Hard. I think it is all part of being present.
But I don’t just want to talk about being present. I actually want to do it.
And I’m finding when I jump in, letting go of the control that I so desperately crave, I find grace. I find Jesus himself who walks through today with me.
And that’s the best part of being present.