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Missing the Presence July 26, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Love, Marriage, Nature of God, Solitude.
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I’m on my own this week. Indy (my husband) is off on his own adventure and I’m home with the cats and the fish. In some ways, I quite enjoy this. We keep the same hours and work together, so neither of us has much time by ourselves and I think we all need a little solitude now and then. And I think it’s good for a marriage to have a chance to miss each other a bit now and then, to remember the things you might tend take for granted about each other so that you appreciate each other more when you’re back together.

We’re only apart for five days, and for the most part I’m fairly content. I’ve been spending time reading, praying, exercising, working on various household projects, and eating foods which Indy does not share my passion. Like sushi. And nutella with bananas. On the whole, I think it’s a healthy separation for both of us.

But then it gets to be a certain time of the evening. Maybe around 9 or 10 pm. It’s the time of the evening when we would normally start wrapping up our individual activities and come and be together. Maybe just to hang out, to talk, read together, make a late-night snack, or watch a movie until it’s time for bed. It doesn’t really matter what we do, it matters that we make time just to be in each other’s presence at the end of the day, every day. That we’re together when we go to sleep every night. No matter what else we do together or separately during the day this is as close to a constant as anything can be.

So when one of us is away, it’s difficult to know what to do with the end of the evening. I am used to his presence. I’m not sure what to do when it’s gone. There are lots of great things I could do, of course, but usually I feel a bit directionless and end up filling the time with Law and Order re-runs or trashy science fiction novels and music until I’m tired enough to fall asleep.

The consistent time together helps keep our marriage strong. It keeps us in tune with each other, focused on each other, and considerate of each other. A little time apart is fine, even beneficial. Too much time apart, though, and we would develop new habits of our own, focused on on our own needs and desires because there was no other around to worry about. It would become harder and harder to remember to think of each other as we should and easier to think of what we wanted to do ourselves. My husband makes me a better person, and spending time with him regularly helps make sure I put him first instead of myself. And he does the same for me, and thus our marriage works.

If the time spent or not spent in the presence of my spouse is so important to the health of my marriage, then what is the time spent in the presence of God to my whole life? It is vital. And yet so scarce. I don’t make time for God like that. Not regularly, not every day. In fact is often the last thing on my list, not the first. Maybe because I know he will always be there when I call, I don’t feel the need to set aside the time for him. He doesn’t need my time, right?

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

Maybe not. But I need the time with him. Of course I can’t make him a priority in my life if I’m not spending time in his presence. I’m already making myself the priority by putting all the things I would rather be doing ahead of spending time with him. If I did that with my husband day after day our marriage would be in real trouble pretty quickly. But somehow I think I can do it with God and have our relationship go on autopilot.

It doesn’t matter if one of the participants in the relationship is the Creator of the Universe – if the other participant is not engaged the relationship will deteriorate. I cannot hope to have the kind of closeness and communication with him that I want and need in my life if I can’t even set aside time everyday to spend with him. When I act as if everything else is more important, it becomes more important.

And yet, I miss his presence in my life when I am not taking that time. I know something isn’t right without it, and I feel aimless and lost. I fill the time with meaningless activities and distractions, just to try to patch up the hole left by the lack of his active presence in my life. And it doesn’t work with God anymore than it does with Indy. The difference is, when Indy is gone there’s not much I can do about it – I’m not neglecting him. But God is right there, any time I want to turn around and make the choice to take the time and be with him. He’s never beyond my reach.

When I got married I made a covenant to make my husband and our relationship a priority. When I gave my life to Christ I was making a similar covenant. And the thing about covenants is that they stand whether or not one of the partners is faithful to it or not. In my marriage neither of us is perfect or completely honors all of our vows all the time, but we don’t just break our promise when the other person falters, because that’s not what it’s about. And yet any covenant between two humans can still fail – both parties can decide to give up and walk away, and we all know this can happen even with the most seemingly dedicated of couples. Humans fail.

“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.”
Romans 3:3-4a

But  God is not human. Covenants with him stand no matter what. No matter how many times I fail to show up for time with him, he still shows up. This doesn’t make my failure any less great. But it means that I am never cut off from him. Even when I don’t make him a priority, he still makes me a priority.

And remembering that makes me desire to put him first, makes me want to set aside that time to strengthen our relationship. Because I miss his presence when I don’t experience it, and I am a worse person for the lack of it. I can not hope to grow spiritually no matter how much I read or write or go to church if I am not spending time in the presence of God. And even the desire to spend time with him comes from him. The more time I spend with him, the more I want to spend time with him; the more I know him the more I want to know until I am like a hart, thirsting after him as after springs of water.

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