Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing devotions based on the United Methodist membership vows, where we pledge to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. This week’s focus is PRESENCE.
28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
How can we possibly be present with or to God or others if we are not present with and to ourselves?
The commandment we call “Great” consists of two parts: loving God and loving our neighbors. We’ve been talking this week about ways we love God – primarily through our attentiveness to God in our lives. The principle here is that we give our attention to the things that we love.
But how much attention are we actually willing to spare for ourselves?
Now, I know where your mind will go with this. No, I don’t mean egocentric attention that is about snapping selfies, self-promotion, and self-indulgence.
What I mean is attention that we spare ourselves in order to care for our faith, our relationships, our emotions, and our (physical) health. Again, tell me what you spend your time and attention on, and I’ll tell you what you love.
Are you making time to spend with God in worship, prayer, and studying scripture? If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve got at least 2/3 of that equation covered.
How about your relationships? Are you making investments in the people who matter most in your life? Are you working through conflicts and forgiveness for past hurts?
This next one is hard. Are you making space for your emotions? I mean, really allowing them to be felt versus pushed aside and treated as inconvenient interruptions? You can’t ever be whole that way. Difficult emotions like sadness, grief, and anger are ones that particularly need tending to. The further you try to push them down, the more aggressively they’ll boomerang back on you.
How about your physical health? Are you getting enough rest? Exercise? Nutritious food? Are you planning your day, week, and month so that there is some margin for you to take a break to be with God, nature, yourself, and people you love? Remember, you can’t take care of anyone from your sick bed!
All of these things require attention to ourselves. Jesus’ wisdom (and practice!) on this matter is deep and profound. We can never be present to others, to care for them, unless we first learn what it means to be present, attentive, and caring toward our own selves in every dimension of our lives.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Which of the four areas – faith, relationships, emotions, or physical health – is hardest for your to attend to? What is ONE positive step you could take that would help you be more present, attentive, and caring toward yourself in this area?
Prayer: Lord, I know that we often push aside my own needs to care for the needs of others. I know that I sometimes ignore the messages from my own spirit, mind, and body because they seem less important than what’s happening around me right now. Remind me that taking care of that “someday” often means I won’t get to it at all. Help me to be present, attentive, and caring toward myself today that I might properly fulfill your command to love others. Amen.
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