Not too long ago I was sitting pondering and praying, looking for the next thing for my life. I wanted to hear from God, a glimpse of where we were headed next, when I heard the now familiar voice say, “the next thing is here”. I realized at that moment how often I look ahead towards the next thing, how often I long for something else, something brighter, more exciting on the other side. There must be more. Right? Yes, there’s always more but what about the more right now?
I’ve always been a dreamer. One time a friend unknowingly hurt my feelings when she jokingly said, “you always look like you have to be somewhere else”. (Gulp) I took offense because I imagined myself different then she described. I imagined that I was kind, compassionate and present – how could I be any of these things if I always looked like I had somewhere else to be? It seemed like something a self-serving, self-absorbed person would do and that was not me, was it? Is it possible to be compassionate and disconnected at the same time? Kind and hurried, present and far out in my thoughts, all at the same time?
Maybe I’m making too much of a generalization – but I believe I was suffering from what many suffer from today – wanting to accomplish much – do much – be much – because of a dream to make a difference in this world. The thing is that God’s way of making a difference is always about people, relating to people, loving people, serving people. Our way of making a difference involves getting a lot of things done and sometimes people get in the way. So that explains the strong desire to move on to the next thing. It really comes from a dissatisfaction with the “now” thing. And it comes from a disconnect from what really is important. It’s been a lifetime of learning this. It doesn’t come naturally. Our flesh wants the quick fix – we want things that are tangible and relationships, although we know they’re important, are just too messy and unpredictable.
It has always been difficult for me to be grateful for the right now moment, because I’ve always had this gnawing feeling that I was meant for more and somehow I was not measuring up. So I believe daydreaming became an escape for me. When I was young I couldn’t get enough of paperback romances (Harlequin Books). I often retreated from family and friends because I wanted to “read” and people would say “oh she’s such a reader”, but really I was just retreating from the hard work of relationships.
So I found this verse:
“Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.”
Ecclesiastes 5:7 NIV
And if you find yourself in a place where I used to be and still learning how not to be (always wishing for the next thing and never present in the now), I might have a few suggestions to help you out:
Pray. Prayer sets my mind on things above. It gets me thinking outside of myself and helps me focus on what’s important. Prayer and the intimacy that results, is a lifeline and a must for my life and for my relationship to others.
Reach outward. Do something simple. Send an encouraging text. Stop someone in the church lobby and ask them about school, work, family, anything. Just reach out to someone about their life. It works.
Listen. Really listen. When people talk, as people interact. Find ways to interact. After you listen - ask questions. Be interested in people’s lives.
Set distractions aside. During dinner put your phone away. On your day off – don’t make any lists or future plans. Just be present in the moment, with your husband, with your kids, with your friends.
Be Thankful. Make a list and see how far you can go. One time I did this – I decided I would write a thank you list and stop only when I couldn’t think of anything else. My list ended at 132.
Father, It’s hard to be present in my relationships because there’s so much I want to do. Help me to care more about people than about things I need to get done. Help me look for ways to be kind and generous to people you have placed in my path. I realize this is why I am placed on this earth – to love you and to love and serve the people you love. Because you are my God, I want to serve you in this way. I know that if I do this – I will begin to live the abundant life you died for me to have. I trust your work in my life. In Jesus name. Amen.