What does it mean to be present? The dictionary defines it as being in a particular place; an act of awareness without distraction of something that has happened or is going to happen.
Based on this definition I am rarely present. While I am certainly in a particular place—maybe even feeling stuck in that place—I am compulsively thinking ahead to all kinds of anxiety-producing what ifs or looking behind where if onlys drag their feet and weigh me down. Therefore, I have to admit that, lately anyway, I am rarely present, especially with God.
But I need to be present. I need to be fully where I am, in a particular place without the distractions of past or future. Present in that place—wherever that may be—God can work. He tells me let go of the past and trust Him for the future. He wants to draw me into His presence and He wants me present there, free from the distractions that pull my mind and heart from Him, the thousand voices vying for my attention. He wants me to rest in His presence, to be still and know that He is God and in that place to worship Him.
It has always been God’s desire to be present with His people. It began in the garden where He walked with us in the cool of the day…before sin changed everything. Determined, He came again to His people, His presence filling first the tabernacle tent and then the temple with smoke by day and fire by night, but again sin drove Him away. He entered our world yet again, becoming one of us to live among us, dealing once and for all with the sin that keeps pushing Him away from us. And now through faith in His death and resurrection, He dwells within us, making His home within our distracted, worried, broken hearts, inviting us to be present in His presence.
When the prophet Ezekiel spoke of Yahweh Shammah, which means The LORD is THERE, he spoke of a city in the future, a place God will inhabit, His presence dwelling finally and forever among His people. The book of Revelation speaks of this place as having no need for the sun or moon for the glory of God will be its light and the Lamb its lamp. In that day we will be truly free from all distractions both past and future. In that day there will be no regret about what’s gone before or worry about what is to come. Nothing to cry over, nothing to stew about, nothing left to heal. Nothing—nothing—to pull us from His glorious all-consuming presence. But until that day we remain in this place, invited into His presence and fighting to remain present there.
It’s where He wants us to be. It’s where He wants to be. There. And there, unbelievably, is with us.