I ate my best apple several years ago. It was a large mottled Gala, and juice ran down my chin. It deserves the title of ‘best’ not for its quality, but because more than any meal I’ve eaten that apple had my full and total attention.

Most of us aren’t present to life that deeply.

We eat distractedly, pray with an agenda rather than intimacy in mind, and listen to plan our response rather than understand. We can’t even watch TV anymore without a second screen in front of us.

How eager we are to hide from the present! How easy to assume that’s just what it means to be human.

At the heart of the Christian faith is openness to presence. When asked God’s name the response came back “I am,” not I was or I will be. Emmanuel God is found in the sound of sheer silence, in our willingness to “be still and know that I am God.” The incarnation of Jesus was the most profound way God revealed divinity to us – here and now, in a particular person that longs for our full attention.

Being fully present means we’re fully honest about who we are in that moment. It means we set aside our ego, our defense mechanisms, and the masks we use to hide our wounds and show up as-is. It means we must tell the truth about being unwell and about our spiritual weakness. It means we can freely and without condemnation drag our unevangelized zones into the loving presence of a God who already knows they exist.

Being fully present means we’re willing to believe in the God that promises us that “power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Cor 12:9)

Our personal healing is inextricably linked to vulnerability. And when we’re courageous enough to practice the presence of God, we find ourselves more OK in our own presence.

It’s out of this presence, this core truth in the depth of our being that our true self is dusted off and free to live without shame.

This spring I have found healing and hope as I’ve intentionally practiced being present with my senses and soul for a specified time each day. As I have become attentive to God I have found a new openness to being Marty, warts and worries and all.

And the more present I am with myself, the more open I find myself to the inverted truth that our soul’s greatest wounds will become our life’s greatest strength.

Presence in Ministry

The most sacred times in life are times I am the most present. This is certainly true of diapers, daughter-dance-parties, and date nights.

It’s equally true of ministry. The sacredness of ministry is always in the specifics, the more human the more sacred. One of the greatest gifts we can give is our presence. Ministry happens right where you are; whether at the corner in your neighborhood or at a friend’s death bed, in your classroom or delivering a casserole to a depressed friend.

It’s easy to forget the spiritual component of ministry – of presence – in our complex and busy world. There’s so much going on around us and inside us to pause and simply be. And yet that’s what our world needs more than anything. Not our perfection and programs – our presence.

And a surprising thing happens when we decide to show up with our full attention. We find ourselves less and less in control. The more rooted in the present, the freer we are to move into the future in a more genuine and healing way than we could have imagined.

For me this week that’s proved true numerous times:

I was present with my son in his sadness, and he became more capable to allow his story to unfold. I was present at my friend’s death bed, and opportunity opened to minister to his care givers.

I take the time to dwell in God’s presence, and healing is opened I didn’t know I even needed.

I’m thankful that there are folks in my life that challenge me to think about presence in the hyper-local; to dare to attend to the presence of God right where I already am.

I think that’s exactly what I meant by titling my book The Gospel Next Door. Because God is already there living and loving and wanting passionately for us show up and just be. To be with God, to be with our neighbors and family. And perhaps most daring of all – to be fully present with ourselves just as we are. There might not be anything more sacred than that.

I hope you find healing presence today. Open yourself to the presence of God. Embrace the you you find inside. God longs to be fully present with you. Perhaps there is no better time than the present to take Jesus up on his invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourself and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

Maybe there you’ll also find your best apple.

I talk more about soul healing in my upcoming book #TheGospelNextDoor. Where do you feel most at home in the presence of God?