by Calven Celliers
There is apparently an old proverb that says, “The goat must browse where she is tied.” Can’t say I have ever heard it before, but it was quoted in an article that I recently read, and my blog today is based primarily on that article by Scott Hubbard because it really challenged me about how distant I can be to those around me, even when I’m present and in their midst.
“Once upon a time, people had no choice but to live where they lived. Humans in the past, finding themselves bound to a local place and local people, lived and laughed and loved there. They spent their seventy or eighty years within limits that would feel to us remarkably narrow. The world was a much smaller place than it is today. This is not meant to make us nostalgic of a bygone time, it’s meant to challenge us about how we get to the point where we know our neighbours on social media better than our neighbours next door? Why are we often more aware of the happenings in far off places than the happenings in our church or community? And what are the consequences of browsing where we’re not tied — of living where we aren’t?
Many of us strain our eyes toward the ends of the earth — and miss this little patch of earth called here. Like a man who mistakes binoculars for eyeglasses, we often know more about distant matters than about the needs, struggles, joys, and griefs of the ordinary people nearby; we become strangers at home. Trying to live both here and there causes us to end up living nowhere well. We all know the frustration of being with someone whose phone seems strapped to their hand. Every minute or so, their eyes dart down, their thumb scrolls, their laughter and grunts of acknowledgment to what we’re saying go on autopilot. Their body is here, but their mind is there.
We walk with heads down trotting the globe on our devices while trampling flowers at home. Living where we are makes the world big again. It awakens us to the everyday wonders in our homes, neighbourhoods, and churches. It reminds us that the most exciting and urgent matters happen not on screens, but in the successes and struggles of the ordinary brothers and sisters in our small group. It frees us to finally explore the galaxy of glories found here, in this small frame of God’s creation, where the heavens declare his glory, creation chants his praise, and immortal souls live and walk and laugh and weep.
“So live where you are: not because home is the most remarkable place on earth, but because God placed you there.”
(Scott Hubbard – Live where you live)
The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. What really challenged me about this article is that it revealed something about me: I am no longer accustomed to an unplugged life. While I stay entertained, informed, and socially connected, I miss the people right in front of me. With the world at my fingertips, life happens around me, and I stand the risk of missing out on the world before me. And I suspect I’m not alone. Do you find it difficult to be fully present? Do pings and flashing messages draw you away from your people? And it needn’t just be your phone that is distracting you from truly living where you are. For some it might be television, or a jam-packed schedule.
Even without modern technology, distractions were inherent in Jesus’s ministry. Go and read Matthew 9 for yourself. It gives us an example of Jesus’ typical day. While in the middle of a discussion about His identity with John’s disciples, a local ruler named Jairus cut in and asked Him to heal his sick daughter. He was interrupted again as He travelled to Jairus’s house. A sick woman touched His hem. He stopped and spoke to her. After healing the woman, Jesus went to Jairus’s house, where He took the dead girl’s hand and told her to wake up. As He left the house, two blind men followed Him and cried out for healing. Instead of offering them healing on the spot, He went to their house and healed them. Next a demon-possessed, mute man came to Him. Jesus cast that demon out. That’s not all, Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. But you know what really struck me as I read through that chapter? In each situation, Jesus was fully present with the people in front of Him. He made eye contact, He listened to them, He journeyed with them, and He met their needs. He offered them the gift of His presence.
Today is a great day to be fully present and truly engage with the people around you — live where you live!