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Present In Love - Saint James Church

Present In Love

Today’s message was on practicing presence, and I felt as if it were particularly for me. After service, several people told me they were similarly touched, so I think many of us have work to do in this area. The main gist of the sermon was that the joy of life and the glory of God are things we need to be mindfully aware of if we want to experience them deeply. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy dashing from place to place that we neither enjoy the moment nor recognize God in it.

I turn 50 next year. To bring in the big year, I decided to do an Ironman 70.3. 70.3 is the total amount of miles you complete while swimming, biking and running. On average, it takes about 7 hours for a woman to finish. It is a ridiculous race, but one I thought worthy of five decades on the planet. Past birthday celebrations have included roller skating, circus trapeze, and a body building show, so a half Ironman seemed to make sense. The problem is, I’m exhausted and have time for nothing more than working, training, eating, and sleeping. I find myself wondering why…why am I doing it? Why do I care?

The answer is a dark truth. It is not to embrace the wonder of life or to inhale the gift of every moment. It is not a sign of my gratitude for all that I have or all that I am. It is not to glorify God or to experience the exhilaration of being alive. No. I chose the Ironman 70.3 because of ego, and most honestly, because of fear. I like telling people that I’m doing a triathlon at age 50 because they admire me for it. It makes me feel special. And I am afraid that without such accomplishments I am not special.

As James pointed out, Americans tend to define themselves as human doings rather than human beings. Few of us think we deserve love simply because we are beautiful and unique creatures of God’s design. Most of us think we deserve love because of arbitrary accomplishments. We believe that what makes us admirable, successful, and lovable is what we achieve rather than who we are. Of note, the first thing we ask to get to know someone is: what do you do? And we describe ourselves using words that describe billions of other people on the planet (wife, mother, teacher, athlete) even though such words are meaningless. They don’t tell much about us at all.

How much we have lost from the halcyon days of Eden. Then, we walked in the presence of God as our raw and naked selves and were not ashamed. It was enough to simply be a creature formed in the image of divine love and to live surrounded by that love, in companionship with God and all of life. But one day, we stopped trusting in our inherent goodness and worth. We made the choice to be our own judge and began to define ourselves by our choices and actions. We clothed ourselves in accomplishments. We alienated ourselves from God, who only wanted to know us and love us as we are.

But God is always there, beckoning us to return to that state of grace. As James continues to remind us, in God we live and breathe and have our being. We need only to acknowledge it. We must remind ourselves of that idyllic past. We came into the world naked and loved simply because we were a unique life, and life is a miracle. And we are not less worthy or loved today than on that first day. If anything, time only highlights the wonder of our being because every day is another chance to radically be ourselves. (Thanks to Melissa for that thought!). Even dogs know their worth and are content to enjoy a belly scratch without end. Are we loved or worth any less? (And thanks to Linda for that thought!)

So, I’ll probably still do the triathlon. But I won’t do it to earn anyone’s love or to feel worthy of it. I’ll do it because I’m Randi Benavente, and I love a good sweat and a good challenge. And I love fresh air and the great outdoors. And with every mile, I will try to remember the God who loves me just as I am—no matter how far I go or what road I travel. And maybe for a while, that will be enough.

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