Present as in a gift.
Present as in to give.
Present as in I am here, in attendance.
Here goes a reflection weaving all three meanings.
As a fellow student, as well as a teacher, I have heard my share of “Here’s” and “Present’s” in response to attendance roll calls.
Until I began noodling for this post, I never had considered the difference between those two responses in a spiritual journey sense, in the sense that, as we journey through life on this Earth, in what we might consider God’s living and learning laboratory, school or classroom; we accept or reject His teaching, with Him and His delegated teachers.
We can be truant. We can stay after for remedial assistance. We can be good students or not.
“Here I am, Lord,” notwithstanding, to be “here,” in God’s classroom, as in “Look, God, I’m here,” it seems to me can be self-congratulatory, and perhaps even presumptively passive. “Okay, now, teach me.”
On the other hand, to be “present” to God, it seems to me is a more active response to God’s presence, even as we are more humble, more submissive. “I’m receptive. I’m listening. I’m here. I want to learn. Please teach me.”
The gift of being present to God is really a gift to ourselves, since we are actively open to God’s action in our lives.
When we give the gift of ourselves to God, we come to realize that God has been gifting Himself to us. He has been loving us into loving Him, teaching us to be good disciples, good students.
What a great God we serve! He Who needs nothing or no one outside Himself not only presents Himself to us, but He delights when we present ourselves to Him.
In the end, we know the final exam. Have we made a gift to others of our presents and our presence–our time, talent, and treasure? (Cf. Matt. 25: 31-46)
As a social studies teacher, I regularly gave students the essay questions ahead of time. Students thought it was too good to be true. I assured them not only were the questions I gave them truly “those” questions that would appear on the test, but that they would have their choice of answering a set number from among those questions.
I told students that I believed testing was meant to be a learning experience. Since I was testing them on the most important concepts, I wanted them to reflect on those concepts ahead of time. In return, I told students my expectations were elevated. No “bulling me.” Only one student tried snowing me. Every other student I can honestly say wrote a thoughtful response to each question chosen to answer.
Now that I am much further along in my spiritual journey than I was when I started teaching, in retrospect I wonder: subconsciously, did I model my testing technique after the Lord’s? Did I take His technique of giving the test questions ahead of time to ramp up the results? No excuses. No: “I studied the wrong thing.” No: “I knew everything but what you asked me about.” No excuses.
The Lord has given us the same challenge and opportunity. He has raised the bar. Being present to Him provides the information, the modeling, the help we need to make it over the hurdle. If the final exam were a playground game, this isn’t the “Limbo” dance…how low can you go?—no, this is how high can you go to meeting the Lord’s expectations of loving Him and neighbor.
As I take my turn with practice runs, training to make it higher and higher over the hurdle, thanks for giving me a boost! Thanks for being present to me in the journey. Thanks for giving the gift of your faith, hope, and love! Thanks for revealing His Presence to me. God bless you, and thank you so very much!