It happened in a meeting. That's a miracle in and of itself.
I was sitting there and we were working through/talking through how to plan well and to sync up teams for maximum efficiency. You know, organizational structure and team dynamics. All that mojo and mumbo jumbo that you need to be a successful leader running a successful enterprise.
Then our Worship Pastor said something that seemed, at first, counter-intuitive.
"I find the more prepared I am the more present I am."
Preparation has often been associated with anything but presence in my experience. I sometimes get frustrated in conversations when we're spending all this time thinking about the future and how to make sure we're prepared for it when it becomes the present. While I'm in the meeting thinking about the possible variables of the future I don't feel present...I feel like I'm living elsewhere, transporting myself to a place and time "not yet" but "soon to be". As we prepare, I feel like I'm living ahead of myself. But maybe this isn't so bad.
Maybe an ounce of preparation leads to a pound of presence.
If I can spare a minute of planning, is it possible that I will experience an hour of being comfortable in my skin when the 'time comes'? The more I've thought about it, I've seen that preparation and presence weren't in conflict with each other....quite the contrary.
As I evaluated the source of most of my stress that causes me to zone out in the present, it's questions about who's at their post and whether we've talked through certain details enough. It's the unnerving feeling that we are shooting from the hip on 34% of the service and though I'm all for spontaneous combustion, I've learned that productive spontaneity comes out of freedom. And freedom is birthed from presence...and presence is birthed from--you guessed it--a relaxation that things have been thought through and talked through and worked through in advance so I don't have to experience a pinched nerve in the moment. Good preparation leads to non-anxious presence.
I've been observing this truth weekly. From both sides. When things are marked out and planned out, I have experienced the joy and liberation of being fully alive in the moment. When things are unprepared and last-minute, I've experienced the twisted intestines and uptightness that accompanies the risk of life-mismanagement. There are times it works out just fine, but you won't know that, because the whole time you're tighter than a snare drum. There isn't a coordination and cooperation that you trust, so you're a ball of nerves. It's sad, too.
Cause the most presence gift you could give someone is your presence, your full attention and affection. No distraction, no disturbance. Simple, pure presence. When I'm not just in the room with people, but I'm in my skin while I'm in the room, there is a difference to that kind of experience. In fact, being present trumps a good presentation every single time. I've listened to stellar presentations and walked away unmoved because I didn't feel a connection in my spirit to the presenter. Connection occurs when the person presenting doesn't appear to be lost in a liminal space, but is locked into life, pregnant with possibility pulsating about him/her. I find myself in a "suspense of disbelief", as it's called in the movies, when you literallyforget you're in a movie or a lecture or a conference or a conversation. You are so caught up in the moment that you forget the one you just came from and the one you're about to go into. This happens when you've already worked through as many best-case and worst-case scenarios 'ahead of time'...this gives oneself the best opportunity to be one's best self in any given moment.
Things can go off the rails. Unplanned things can occur leaving you scrambling to improvise calling audibles like Peyton Manning. But by and large, things go according to plan when you plan and you're left to have the space to be present. The alternative is that you're always absent even when you're there. Absent presence repulses anything alive or seeking life. But present presence, well, this is the glory of God experienced through the image of God.
That is what I long for. Preparation that unleashes presence.