I want to be engaged this year. As of yesterday I’ve been on this earth for more than twenty-three years, and I think it’s about time for me to be engaged.
I’ve been asking people on my Home Team what one word they want to hold true for 2016, and when the question was finally reciprocated by my friend Sanford, I couldn’t come up with anything. I hadn’t found one that quite fit just yet.
I would say seemingly meaningful words aloud to see if their meanings would hold any significance for what I want this next year to be.
I rustled up words like depth or rest or value and announced them to myself in the car or in the shower or on my walk to work. Nothing was clicking.
Until I drove to Joshua Tree yesterday morning, and that’s when a word so unexpected was whispered into the silence around me: engaged.
And I know it’s the right word for this next year because it scares me to say it aloud. I knew as soon as I heard it that it wasn’t my idea- I’d never ask for something so radical.
But as I sit in this snow-covered coffee shop on the side of Bear Mountain, that word keeps repeating itself in my mind to the point that I can feel it making itself at home and warming everything in me like the flat white in my coffee mug.
So for my twenty-fourth year of life I want to be engaged, but it’s probably not what you think.
I’m as single as a slice of American cheese right now, which is perfect for me and I prefer it that way.
But when I say I want to be engaged, I don’t mean I’m looking for a fiancé.
I mean I want to be engaged in the sense that I’m mindful of the people and surroundings and culture and the spiritual warfare around me.
I want to establish meaningful connections with the person on the other side of my coffee mug or in the booth across from me at dinner or in the passenger seat of my car.
I want to lean in and connect with the stories being told. I want to actively console the sorrows being shared. I don’t want to go through conversations absentmindedly anymore.
Because after two decades of being distracted by tomorrow and by my phone and by what’s happening in my peripheral, it’s about time I was engaged fully in these moments.
I just finished A Hobbit A Wardrobe and A Great War by Joseph Loconte. It’s a book about J.R.R. Tolkien’s friendship with C.S. Lewis and how the events of WWI shaped their views on life, transformed their writing, and grew them together as best friends.
I came across a quote in one of the last chapters from Lewis about what true friendship is and he says,
You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher or the Christian by staring into his eyes as if he were your mistress: better to fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him.
I don’t think we’ll ever be fully engaged in the lives of others by staring at them through Instagram or Snapchat or by stalking their musical tastes on Spotify (all of which I’m fully guilty).
I think engagement happens when we turn off our phones and laptops and TVs and fight beside the people we love and want to know more.
It happens when we sit together in the silence of reading or doing a puzzle together or in the gentle murmur of prayer for one another.
I want to be engaged with this planet in my next year of life. I’ve already explored some of the most incredible landscapes in the past few months of living in California, but it’s only one state and I have the world at my fingertips.
So do you.
But if we never take the time to stick up for ourselves, to ask our employers for time away to rest and leave our cubicles and occupy our bodies and minds with the waterfalls and mountains and deserts and cobblestone streets of this planet, are we really living?
I want to engage in other cultures and environments and languages in this next year. I want to encounter more new places and faces than sticking to the social norms would allow.
More than that, I want to engage in the invisible war that’s taking place over the souls of the people around me.
I want to be locked and loaded with an arsenal of grace and truth and boldness to bring the good news of hope into the lives that intersect mine.
I want to be fully aware of God’s presence in every moment and not as much like Jacob who woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it!”
John 1:10-11 says, “[Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
I don’t want to be one of His own who is too busy or distracted or preoccupied to recognize his presence in every moment.
I heard a pastor once say, “The holiest moment in life is the one happening right now,” and I think he’s absolutely correct.
Because the enemy has quietly and viciously crept into this world and distracted us with empty connections and excuses of worrying about tomorrow.
C.S. Lewis portrays this in The Screwtape Letters. The antagonist Screwtape maliciously states,
The present is the point at which time touches eternity…It is far better to make [humans] live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities.
If I want to be engaged in the holiest of moments, if I want to live fully aware of the battle taking place for the weary, helpless souls around me, tomorrow can (responsibly) worry about itself.
It’s a new year, I’m another year older, and I want nothing more than to be engaged.
Will you be engaged with me? Will you spend more time being present in the present and interacting with the current landscape and giving the enemy a good dose of his own fear as your heart and mind sync up with these points in time that touch eternity?
I think life looks better engaged, regardless of whether there’s a ring involved or not.
Because we have a God who’s engaged and none of us did anything to deserve his fullness in every moment.
Stop for just a second and hear Him gently whisper, “wake up to the life around you, my child. Awaken your senses to the people and places and my presence in this life, and I will wrap you up in light.”