We are officially in a new year. It’s a great time; we all are thinking about the past and now thinking about what we want the future to be. I know for my dear Danielle and I, we have been looking at what we want this year. Habits we want to begin, things we need to cut out, vision casting for the future. I love looking to the future, but often, I get caught up in the future and end up missing right now. There have been many moments where I want to do something, but ended up getting held back because I was not “experienced” enough. So, I strived in the past to get to the next level, do whatever it takes to gain influence. Now, for me, this never meant being a bully to get ahead, but it did mean I would get so focused on who I needed to impress and which boxes to check to move up. I was trying to speed through a game, without taking time to have fun.
What I’ve been learning is that I need to stop rushing into what’s next and enjoy where I am. I need to be present.
There are so many examples of the importance of being present. When someone is talking to you, you need to be present and engaging; this is a huge key in communication. The difference between hearing and listening comes into play, sure you can be talking to me, but if I’m only waiting to say what I want and not trying to understand you; that’s just hearing. Listening is engaging actively in our response to another person.
We need to start listening to life.
We need to be present in what’s around us. What is this situation teaching you? How can you speak life into this person? How can you love the environment you find yourself in? These are the thoughts of someone who is present. I think about the life of Jesus, specifically when he talks to the woman at the well. The story is found in John 4, Jesus is simply being present in the moment in front of him. A woman comes up, and he begins a conversation. Conversations lead to so many powerful moments for God’s love to show up. What ends up happening, is Jesus helps this woman find freedom, in a time where culturally, he wasn’t even supposed to be engaging her. What we see in this moment, is Jesus could have been focused on his ministry and ignored this conversation, but he chose to be present, and changed the course of someones life forever.
I want to talk about why we need to be present, because all of us need to slow down and look at the miracle happening in front of us.
Being present means growth and greater influence.
I never want to miss out on something unfolding in front of me. It’s why I hate when people text during movies – everyone is trying to be focused on a story, but our eyes jump to a small glowing screen. I don’t want to be obsessed with a future I can’t control, when God is cultivating my story in the present. Stop being that kid who interrupts a lesson asking, “is this going to be on the exam?” Just listen and learn all you can, the future will come on its own. As we start to live in the now, growing in our maturity, we start to have open eyes to the people and opportunity in front of us. This is something I’m working through now, I don’t want to lose the opportunity to love someone or grow into a better person. I want to be present in the lives of others, so that I can influence them through encouragement when they need it. We feel loved when that person close to you is able to ask, “hey, I know something is off, how can I help?” Why not be present and listen to the people around you, so that you can be an influence for the better.
“Stop bringing old stuff into a new season.”
That quote is from a message I heard this week from Pastor Keith Pittman at Celebration Orlando. It stuck out to me because so many times, I will bring my past hurt and pains into a new future. I get distracted from the present, because I use the past as a filter. I need to let go. You need to let go. Now, some stuff, it’s important that you get free of those past hurts and you be careful as you walk, but overall, let things go. I know they hurt you, but not everyone is out to get you. I know you felt helpless in that situation, but you are powerful. I know you were mistreated, but it’s time to walk in freedom. The past, our mistakes and shame, can bind us, but we need to let go. I am reminded of finger traps. They were cheap little toys, where you put one finger from each hand in the ends, then as you pulled apart, they would tighten and hold you in. You could pull and pull, but until you let go of struggling and relieve the tension, your fingers slipped right out. It’s time to start living this way. You pull away and fight back at the new season you’re in in order to protect yourself, but in the end, you stay trapped and unable to get out. It’s time to be free, it’s time to start being present. Stop bringing old stuff into a new season, begin to live free in this new season of opportunity.
As you dream about this new year, stop and think about how you can live in the present. When you are with the people you love, invest in their company. As you enter each day, see it as a new opportunity to love. Remember that even if you aren’t where you want to be, every day is a chance to grow into that future. You can be present and influence the lives of others in a powerful way. You can live free by letting go of the past.
Don’t miss out on the beauty in front of you, live with expectation each and every day.
About the Author: Joshua Thomas is a writer by day and superhero by night. When he’s not writing and crimefighting, you can find him reading a good book, sipping warm tea, taking pictures, or dreaming. The young writer doesn’t fully know what he’s doing, but is enjoying the journey of it all. You can tweet memes at him on Twitter @joshua_thomas__ or follow his hipster photos and Jack Kerouac musings on Instagram @joshua_thomas__