The flight back East from Colorado earlier this week was interesting and it shed light on one of the greatest things missing in our culture these days: Simply being present.
i was flying on Southwest. Anyone familiar with how that airline handles boarding knows that the process involves boarding groups which are assigned a letter of the alphabet — Group A being the first that gets on the plane. The airline also assigns a number along with the letter.
So A-1 is the best possible position to have because it means you will be the very first person to board.
i was in Group A, but my number was 31. No worries.
What was fascinating was that the guy who had A-1 was totally wrapped up in the frantic nature of life and when the announcer called his number he was so engrossed in his “smart” phone that he was oblivious.
The announcer called him three times and eventually resorted to “Hey, Dude, do you want to get on the plane?” Seriously.
When i got on the plane i took the aisle seat which was in the same row as the Phone Guy. He was sitting in the window seat conducting business, talking about senior analysts and managers and performance review and all that.
He also had taken he complimentary in-flight magazine and some other items and he placed them in the middle seat which was between us. i thought it was a bit unusual, but it wasn’t bothering me.
Soon after i sat down, a young woman carrying a 6-month old child (i know because i later asked how old the child was) asked to sit down in our aisle. i asked her if she wanted to sit in the middle or in the aisle seat.
Her response caught be off guard. She said she wanted to sit in the aisle seat and she wanted to sit next to her husband. She pointed to the Phone Guy, who remained on the phone the whole time. In fact, he stayed on the phone so long that the flight attendant had to come by three times to tell him to end the call so we could take off.
A host of questions flooded my mind. First, why didn’t the family board the plane together? Second, if they weren’t able to board together, what didn’t the husband sit in the aisle to reserve it for his wife? Third, and perhaps most significantly, why didn’t he at least pause his phone call to engage the situation and help his wife?
He was a classic case of the man who is not present. Distracted. Consumed. Focused on something other than the reality right in front of him.
It is so easy to be that guy. And when i am that guy, it’s never good.
i don’t know where i heard this saying, but it has stuck with me: “Don’t be a bystander in your own life.”
Exactly. The Phone Guy was a bystander in his own life. We’re talking about a plane ride with his wife and child. He should have been there.
As i think back to that interaction on the plane, i am compassionate toward the woman in the situation who took a somewhat irritated tone with me. i don’t think she was really upset with me. i think she was feeling rather uncared for and her frustration came out in the way she talked to me.
i say this from experience. My wife has carefully explained to me the aggravation she, and other wives feel, when their husbands are checked out from reality.
This isn’t just a tip on how to be a good husband however. It’s much more important than that.
Being present and connected to what is actually going on around us is crucial for the health of our own hearts, as well as for the quality of our relationships. We can’t be checked out, passive and oblivious. That brings resentment and, eventually, the relationship falls apart.
This is true of every relationship, most significantly our relationship with God.
Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father do (John 5:19), and He said that the Father is “always at work.” (John 5:17).
That means Jesus had a relationship with God that was taking place in Real Time and God was active in Real Time. God is still active in Real Time. All the more reason for us to be present.
Phone Guy was not present. When i was in my porn addiction, i was not present. Even when i was physically present, i was off somewhere else in my thoughts. The fantasy world was much more appealing than anything immediately in front of me. And i escaped as often as i could.
My relationship with God was a mess, and so were my relationships with everyone else. My world continued to shrink and i could feel myself getting weaker all the time. The only answer i had was to run back to porn, where i felt strong and masculine and important.
Jesus, on the other hand, was fully present in everything and that made it possible for Him to bring to the world all that the Father intended. It also made it possible for Him to have a real strength to offer in relationships, and it made it possible for Him to face the very real challenges — even threats — that faced Him.
Jesus didn’t even check out during the excruciating pain of the beating and crucifixion He endured for our sake.
Whoa! That is extraordinary. Jesus’ insistence on being present brought our rescue. Let’s celebrate that.