By Amber Kinloch
I’ve been musing on Joseph and how significant his presence is. Thinking about it, it seems to me as if the whole point of Joseph’s life is just to be present to Jesus and Mary, ever ready to cheerfully serve them. Miracles, words of wisdom, grand gestures? Nope. Just be present wholeheartedly to God and those around you. That’s enough.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’ve been realizing how reluctant I tend to be when it comes to giving up selfish distractions and being present in different ways. Here are a few areas where I need to be more present.
It’s not enough to rattle off a Rosary and call that prayer. I know that. But that doesn’t mean I remember. Attentive prayer, I find, is made up of a number of threads woven together.
First, I need to work on remembering that a true relationship with God is personal. It doesn’t just consist of me kneeling in church thinking deep thoughts. I need to look at God and listen and give Him a chance to speak with me. Else it’s merely an interior monologue.
But to enter into a true dialogue, I need to make an effort to be present. How? Posture is a good place to start. Kneeling, folding my hands together, moving my lips while praying the Rosary, etc. That physical effort, in turn, can help me settle interiorly. Often, I settle for praying in a half-hearted manner because I’m too busy thinking about my “To Do” list or what I should do about a certain matter. Sometimes, the right course is to bring these things to God. Other times, I’m just obsessed with overanalyzing something and I need to let go of it.
Work is another area where I struggle to be present and give a task my full attention. The internet, email, and music are all significant distractions for me. So is my imagination. It takes effort to keep it on a leash and focus on the task at hand instead of chasing after some random idea.
Similarly, I struggle with a “check the box” mentality, where I get obsessed with checking items off my “To Do” list. I do not want to work this way, focused on a future accomplishment rather than doing something well in the present. I want to find joy in the process of work and doing it to the best of my ability.
One thing I really enjoyed this past fall was raking leaves. That was work where I was living the present moment, reveling in the fall weather and being outside in the yard with my dad. I want to bring that same spirit of appreciation to my other work, instead of avoiding it or doing it out of mere habit.
I’m an introvert. Quiet and solitude are precious commodities and, as a general rule, the more the better. Or so I think. With the passing of time, I’ve realized what a selfish view I tend to have towards others.
For instance, while I enjoy solitude and like to think myself independent, I also like to know that others are thinking of me. (Who doesn’t?) A text or email is a gift. But then I’ll put off answering someone for a while (days) because of laziness or selfishness. My mentality is that people should wait upon me while I ignore them.
Sometimes, too, I need to remind myself to be present to those I’m physically with, to make the effort to talk with my family, neighbors, and friends at church instead of scoping out escape routes. Or I need to silence my inner chatterbox and listen instead of merely hearing and nodding my head at appropriate points. Or maybe I need to think about the kind of presence I’m projecting. Is my tone bright, or am I projecting a gray mood? Do I try to keep the conversation positive by asking good questions and offering praise, encouragement, and thanks? It’s not hard. But do I make the effort?
St. Joseph as a Model of Presence
Throughout those long years in Nazareth, Joseph was like the sunshine, warming people’s spirits and brightening up this world without anyone noticing his presence. I want to be like that.
What about you?
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.