“Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living. As Annie Dillard memorably put it, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives...’ ”
When I read this quote by writer Maria Popova with the words of Annie Dillard embedded within, it struck a deep and true cord within me. Presence—full and gracious and unhurried presence-- is truly a difficult art. Being present for people requires an exquisite patience and forbearance, and a willingness to temporarily suspend the lengthy to-do lists we have banging about in our heads. Sometimes presence requires us to stop being “productive”, knowing the ultimate results of our presence are beyond the capacity of measurement. Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time taking care of small children or tending to the gravely ill knows this to be particularly true. Productivity ceases to matter when our fullest presence is most needed.
Even in less dramatic ways, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Being present to our lives brings a joy and wonder and depth that makes life worth living. This week I will be preaching on the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, a wonderful and challenging story that reminds us to be responsive and empathetic to the people around us, even those we might want to avoid or step around. Being present for one another, to be sure, is difficult work; but, I am certain, it is the holy and wholly rewarding work that God calls us all to.
Yours on the Way,