Present in The Presence

As helpful as video conferencing through Zoom or other virtual gathering spaces was when the world was shut down, we all know they aren't like the "real" thing.  

Even now, as so many of my meetings are still virtual, I've discovered a renewed joy in chatting with someone at my favorite coffee shop. 

There's something irreplaceable about seeing someone's face in three-dimensional relief and picking up on the nuances of their expressions, the subtle messages of body language, and so much more. 

Plus, the coffee at Summer Moon Coffee down the street from the house is just freaking amazing.  I wish at this moment I was there drinking some. But I digress.

One of the many things that I have learned because of the challenges we all faced during the Covid years (funny that we refer to them that way, now) is that it's much harder to assume the worst about people when we're close to them. 

We do too much of that in our ever-increasing virtual worlds, don't we?  It's easy to assume the worst when we aren't listening to the sound of someone's voice as we sit across from them, face-to-face. 

And don't get me started on the pitfalls of social media. 

Far too many of us take on entirely different personas when we can post things on social media platforms without context, often without the fear of offending others, and usually when we're incensed about something that someone else posted. 

I've known the most mild-mannered people who acted like monsters on social media, bullying others, berating people, and saying the most awful stuff.  And I've been guilty of the same thing, so there's that. 

Or we take what someone wrote in an email or text the wrong way or any number of other things that we do when we're not close to the person we're trying to communicate with. 

As it turns out, being able to see and be in the presence of one another is not just a nice idea--it's vital to being fully human. 

I've had this quote from Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein) in my notes for some time, and it seems so appropriate here: 

At a distance from facts one draws conclusions which appear infallible, which yet when put to the test of reality, vanish like unreal dreams. - Mary Shelley

I was thinking about all of this in the context of how Jesus conducted himself during his ministry.  He indeed spent some time alone, content to enjoy solitude and prayer, but throughout the Gospels, Jesus seemed to want to be present with people. 

There wasn't a party that Jesus didn't like.  And he spent most of his time in the presence of others, teaching, talking, eating, laughing (I'm sure), and sometimes debating.  Jesus even went to dinner with people who disagreed with him.  

I know it's a bit of a stretch to compare Jesus hanging out with others to our own context of virtual vs. in-person, but I still find the connection compelling.  I feel like those of us who follow Jesus ought to learn from his example. 

If we do our best to stay physically connected to others, even when we don't agree with them or wonder what they are trying to say or believe, we stand a better chance of maintaining our relationships with them. 

May we practice as much as we can the art of person-to-person fellowship before we pass judgment.  May we find moments to be fully present in the presence of people whose relationships matter to God and to us. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever.  Amen.  


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