Being present is one of the most crucial mental skills that an athlete can have. Remaining stuck in the past, or thinking too far ahead, can alter performance concerning the task at hand. As a former Division I basketball player, I can appreciate how important it is to be engaged in every moment. I made three game winning, buzzer-beating shots during my athletic career. On those occasions I knew that they were critical moments. I approached those times with exceptional focus and confidence. I could feel the excitement of the crowd and the electricity in the atmosphere. On the other hand, I have shot thousands of free throws in sixteen years of playing the sport. Too many times I missed a free throw because I was thinking about the play I was going to run in our next offensive possession, or about the open lay-up that I missed two plays ago. I missed out on opportunities to score because I failed to value the current possession. My problem was that taking a free throw two minutes into the game did not feel as significant as having the ball in my hands with five seconds left on the clock in double overtime. In the former example, my mind would analyze plays, calls, and every situation except the one that I was in. The latter conversely received my full attention and effort. It was easy to remain present in moments that were obviously extraordinary, but I struggled to completely press into moments that seemed so normal.
One of the first things that my coach would do after a close game was look at the team’s free throw percentage from the first half. If we lost, the post-game speech sounded something like: “We missed three free throws and only lost by one point. If we would have focused in the first half, we would not be in this position!” If we won, the message was more along the lines of: “We made all of our free throws early on. THAT made the difference down the stretch!” His point was, whether there are thirty minutes or thirty seconds left in the game, there’s always a chance that we may be standing in a pivotal moment that could alter the outcome of the game.
It seems that we experience similar situations in our walk with the Lord. There are times in our journey that may not feel very significant at the time, but can have meaningful contributions to God’s plan for our life in the long run. Sometimes we are in the midst of a crucial moments, but aren’t aware of it until it has passed.
David, the man after God’s own heart, is often remembered for his vulnerability and honesty with the Lord. Like all heroes of faith, David had an authentic and notable relationship with God. To me, one of the most pertinent facets of David’s walk with the Lord was how present he was in every situation. Of course he reflected on the past and prayed for his future; but he knew that “This is the day that the Lord has made” (Psalm 118:24). David was completely engaged in his darkest nights, in his brightest days, and everything in between. He involved God in every single aspect of his life, even when no one was watching. He built his personal history with God long before the psalmist was ever anointed as king of Israel. I think that the psalms offer us a glimpse into 150 of the countless pivotal moments in David’s walk that he was fully present for. I believe that David’s nearness to God was the fruit of humbly walking with Him day in and day out. I cannot say whether or not he knew it at the time, but David’s decision to connect with the Lord and to be present in the everyday cultivated a connection with God that put him in the best position to faithfully step into his destiny.
I believe that when we, too, choose to be present, we choose to walk in close relationship with our Creator. We accept a daily invitation to experience deeper intimacy with our Father. We participate in an exchange of insignificance for great purpose. We get to partner with Him to influence our coworkers and the man checking us out at the grocery store. Being present is a divine opportunity to encounter our omnipresent God who sees us in every moment. God is ever present for us to experience on a second to second basis as we posture our hearts to seek His kingdom. That is not a gift to take for granted!
To not be present suggests that the moments behind us or the ones ahead are more important than the one currently staring us in the face. The Samaritan woman had Jesus’ undivided attention when she encountered Him at the well. She became His top priority in that moment, and Jesus was able to powerfully minister to her. When we are present, we also become available to God. He chose to partner with humans in His mission to advance His kingdom. It was His plan for people to be co-heirs with Christ. God chooses to use us as vessels when He blesses a waiter with a generous tip and when He sends help to a couple of teenagers whose car broke down on the side of the road. When we focus on the moment and the people in front of us, I believe that we are actively fighting for connection with Him. In failing to do so, we can miss precious opportunities to partner and commune with God.
Learning from our previous experiences is undeniably important. Casting fresh vision and preparing for the future are also biblical disciplines that we should practice. We should always share the testimony of our half court buzzer-beater moments in order to encourage, inspire, and lead people toward Jesus. Still, the reality is that we may only attempt a handful of those deciding shots in our life. We will shoot thousands of free throws. Those are thousands of opportunities for precious connection and partnership with God. We should never let any of the aforementioned items keep us from valuing and fully participating in the mundane moments that we find ourselves in. These situations may not immediately jump out as deciding moments in our walk with God. They may even share the routine nature of free throws, but they could be game changers that we simply aren’t aware of yet. These crucial moments are pieces of our history with God!
God is worthy of our full attention. As sons and daughters, we have access to everlasting joy and abundant life! Another day at the office should be nothing short of a brand new adventure if we decide to be there for it. He is present every step of the way, and it seems fit for us to try to be present as well. May we continue to grow in awe and thanksgiving for our God as we choose to be present in both the ordinary and the extraordinary moments of our purpose-filled lives!
Randi Jackson is currently a doctoral student at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. She is studying Psychology with a concentration on Sport and Performance Counseling.
© 5 Solas Publishing & Editing
© Randi Jackson