There are moments, sometimes days when I am preoccupied when I am in the presence of someone else. I look back at those moments and I think, “why did I forfeit the real experience of that person in the moment for the sake of something else– that concern, that future event, that other person who wasn’t even there at the moment?” I feel regret at those times for having spent the moment thinking of something else instead of really engaging that person.
It happened to me today when I got home. I was out back cleaning up stuff we’d taken out of our back porch to clean it. Mike, one of the guys who works for me, came around from the front where he’d been sitting waiting for me to come home because he’d finished his tasks for today. He was in a good mood, had some good stories he was telling me, and I was actually enjoying them, but continuing to do what I was doing, and being a bit preoccupied. Mike asked me if I was thinking about the plumbing at the 8-plex. I guess I’m pretty easy to read, and my guys know me pretty well. I said yes I was, and I was sorry if I seemed to be short with him. He said it was nothing, but he could just tell. He told me one more story, and then left. Right after he did I wished I would have made him a lemonade and listened to some more of his stories. But I hadn’t. Because I was thinking about plumbing issues at the 8 plex. Plumbing issues which are not pressing. Copper pipes were forefront in my mind, so Mike got ignored. It was silly, stupid, and kind of sad.
But its easy with all we have going to be preoccupied with life tasks, life events, and to not take time for people– even the people who are right in front of us talking to us. Its kind of ridiculous really.
I think about when I was a kid. When I was a kid I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities– so I could pay full attention. I used to get bored as a kid, and I think it was because I didn’t have distractions. I never get bored now, and I blame it on the fact that I have so much to keep me occupied. But its beautiful that as a kid you have so little to do that you can get bored. Its usually not kids who are short on time to hang out– its the adults who have to run, can’t stay long. Why? I guess because we get busy. We need to be busy, and the responsibility is part of being adults. I have responsibilities to my job, to my friends, to my tennants (I have some rentals– I am responsible for the toilets of ovoer 65 people– now THAT is responsibility!) I wouldn’t trade the responsibilities and the joys that come from those responsibilities to be free and bored again– my responsibilities are part of my contribution to the world and to life.
However, what concerns me is that I sometimes feel like I use up all I’ve got and I haven’t got overflow. Grace to stop what I’m doing, overflow to listen and be with someone, freedom to pay attention and set aside my preoccupations. To be able to realize what is really important.
So this is what I want to do more, and to be more. To have more overflow. To be a space of grace for others, like shade on a hot day.
Jesus said that we have to come to him like children. Maybe part of that is that we have to come without preoccupations, with attention to give. I pray that God will give me grace to live remembering what is really important– what is really great in life. I hope God does that for you too…
— Andy Gustafson