Can there be anything better than camping with several dozen of your closest friends? The late nights around the campfire, the rainy weather, the early morning sounds of crows, the laughter, the dirt, the smell of campfire, the conversation… I could go on; but, I know many of you are not the camping type and the closest you get to camping is a continental breakfast. Others of you are such die hard campers that you would call what I do “glamping,” or glamour camping (I have a travel trailer with a kitchen and indoor plumbing!)
But back to my story! There were about 70 of us, I think, all gathered at a Michigan state campground for anywhere from 5 to 2 nights together. We ate together, played together, laughed and worshipped. As a very high extrovert, this is my kind of camping and our campsite was in the center of it all. I didn’t have to leave a 10 foot radius to find someone to talk to! Silence and Solitude? Not on the church campout!
However, I found myself wrestling with this – while I love all of them, I couldn’t lovingly engage everyone there. There was no way! How did Jesus do it? How did Jesus actively love all the people he encountered – not to mention you and me how many years later!?!
Jesus showed up!
The birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, along with John 3:16, lead me to this. In the person of Jesus Christ, God becomes fully present with those he lovingly created for a full life. Go ahead, read that last sentence again, I’m going to! I’ll wait. … There’s a lot there! I don’t plan to unpack that whole thing don’t worry!
But think about it. John quotes Jesus as saying that it was out of the Father’s extravagant love for us the Jesus came into the world. The Son. God. Here. With. Close.
Really close. Close enough that the pharisees could smell him. Close enough to notice when there was stuff in his beard. Close enough that he could notice Peter’s runny nose. Close enough to touch lepers, hold hands with prostitutes, eat with tax collectors and party with sinners. Close enough to have compassion, make mud with spit and raise the dead.
Jesus became fully present with those who are created for good works that were already in the works (Eph. 2:10). Yes, there is a lot of verb-tense shifting in that sentence so you better read it again… In the incarnation, Jesus becomes present with humanity. That includes Adam, Noah, Rahab, David, Sarah, you and me.
As you read the gospel accounts of Jesus life, there is no question that when one is with Jesus, they have all of Jesus. Jesus is WITH them. He is present. He is fully aware of their hurts, pain, hopes, anger and even trickery. He is loving them by being fully present with them.
With us. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus, our high priest, is able to fully connect to our lives and everything about them, because he is fully present with us and has experienced all that life can give – the good and the bad.
Jesus teaches us that part of loving others is just showing up and being present.
I couldn’t be fully present with everybody
While camping there were too many people for me to be able to do that. But, I could practice being fully present with whoever was right there, in front of me. I could practice being fully engaged with the circle around the campfire. I could practice not being distracted by being attentive.
Sometimes that looked like holding a toddler. Sometimes it was a deep conversation at the beach with a few others. Sometimes it was one-on-one or cooking pudgy pies over the fire. Often it was with laughter or by winning at euchre!
I know I didn’t love everyone perfectly or fully – even in my own family. But I am growing in being able to be fully present with whoever is right in front of me.
Who are you loving by being present with today?