Practicing the Art of Being Present

Photo by  Brigitte Tohm  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Last year I was diagnosed with glaucoma, which really hasn’t affected my life in any way, except that I have to go to the eye doctor a little more frequently than most people. And those visits sometimes require some unusual tests.

Last week I had my quarterly exam and had to take a “field vision” or “peripheral vision” test. I’ve had to do this test a few times in the past, and I have to say it’s one that I dread. Not because it hurts, but because it requires six minutes of intense concentration.

For three minutes each eye, I have to put my head in front of a machine and stare at a yellow dot, pressing a clicker every time I see a flash of light. Like I said, it doesn’t hurt, but it does require some intense concentration. When I’m done, I feel like I need a nap!

It got me thinking, why is it so hard for me to spend time—even three minutes!—concentrating on one thing? Maybe it’s because I spent so many years as a mom, being pulled in every direction all day long. Maybe it’s because I’m a little ADD (I’m not)? Or maybe because I let myself get distracted all day long by whatever seems most urgent at the time.

Back in the 1960s, a man named Charles Hummel wrote a little book called The Tyranny of the Urgent. In this book, he describes a problem that many struggle with (I know I do!)—not enough time in a day. But Hummel says that the problem really isn’t with the clock, it’s with our priorities. Priorities that leave us scrambling and feeling pulled in a million directions.

He says, “We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important.” It’s our job to figure out which is which. Hummel’s solution is to look at the life of Jesus, who spent every day asking God what he should be doing that day and who took time for others. Hummel points out that Jesus’s life “was never feverish; He had time for people.”

Some days I feel like I don’t even have three full minutes to focus on others, but that’s ridiculous . . . and convicting. I do have time. I just need to practice using my time wisely, to exercise my muscles of concentration, so that I prioritize the important over the urgent.

For the next few weeks, I'm going to be practicing what Hummel suggests--putting people over activities. I'll be logging over 8,000 miles, both by air and by car, to visit both coasts where two of our three girls live. I'll be helping one with a huge cross-country move, and we'll all be visiting another and taking a brief family vacation. When I get back, I'll be sure to post some photos of my travels. We live in a big, beautiful, diverse country, and I'm looking forward to seeing much of it!

Au revoir! Adios! See you later!


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Shelly's book, First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship, is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and