The power of invisibility sounds like a cool idea in theory, that is, if you could turn it off and on at will. Invisibility would come in handy when you want to sneak up on people or have the upper hand in a fight. But, being invisible all the time would have its price. Imagine trying to relate to others around you when they can’t see you. Invisibility is great when we want to be hidden but what about when we want to be seen?
I’ve noticed this trend lately – people sitting together at a restaurant who are all on their phones. It appears by their close proximity to each other that they have come to this place in order to spend time together, and yet by their actions it doesn’t appear they are actually spending time together. Something seems wrong with this picture. Smart phones have made it really easy for us to be socially stupid. When was the last time you were with your friends or family while texting someone in a different place? Now before you think I’m an old-fashioned techno-grump and tune me out – stick with me.
If we aren’t careful we will lose the ability to see what, or who, is right in front of us. It’s the age-old struggle of being fully present. I believe we have lost the art of presence. One of the most passionate and humble missionaries of the 20th century, Jim Elliot, puts it this way, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Simple and yet rich in practical meaning. I see this at work in me as a Father. With all the ministry pressures that require my vision I can often be with my kids but not really see them. This conviction runs deep in my soul and I lay awake some nights regretting my failure to be fully present with my family.
Can you identify with this struggle? Is there a group of people who you spent time with but later feel like they never noticed you were really there? Or, are you “spending time” with people without actually being fully present with them? If we aren’t careful we are just acknowledging each others invisibility. We need to get back to the heart of being all in to a conversation, a meal with friends, a game with our family, a walk in the evening, or a task we complete together. The greatest joy you and I will ever experience is community. Real authentic community, the way God intended it to be, only comes when we are willing to be fully present with each other. This takes focus, honesty, commitment, and delight. When is the last time you purely delighted in someones presence?
We are a busy culture and we pride ourselves on multi-tasking. We often see it as a resume worthy skill but even this seemingly innocent productivity prize chips away at our ability to be fully present. Shane Hipps puts it this way, “There is no such thing as multitasking. It doesn’t multiply anything; it only divides.” He goes on to say that we could view our lives as a glass of water. If we pour that water into 4 other glasses you don’t generate any new water – you just divide up what you had. Have you been treating relationships like that? Are you just giving someone part of the water that you have to give? When you sit down with your family or spend time with your friends how much water do they get?
I believe God has created us and called us to be fully present in community with Him and with others. When we spend our time with someone we must offer up a full glass. Next time you are with someone you’ll probably have to work at shutting off all the other distractions. It still takes effort to be fully present with someone in relationally even though we are physically right next to them. When someone is talking to you don’t be thinking about what you have to get done later that day. When you are with someone don’t wonder what other people are doing at that moment. When you chose to be in front of someone don’t day-dream about other places you could be.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col. 3:12-14)
Only people last for eternity. So the next time you are with your friends or family – be all there!