The typical message that we often hear on the radio and see on television is to get something special for someone that we truly care about. We are encouraged and told that gifts are the greatest signs of love or appreciation for someone. Hence, in a consumeristic world, this message often means that we need to buy or purchase something. We have oftentimes quantified our expressions of love and gratitude. Nevertheless, some of the greatest, most heartfelt, loving, and personal gifts that we have received, treasured, and loved are some of the most insignificant in value because they evoked something very intimate for us. Therefore, we can say that the greatest gifts that we can offer or give to one another are based on quality and not simply on materialistic quantity or measurements.
In the same way in the spiritual life, I have a lot of people who come to me asking what they need to do more in order to deepen their relationship with God or to have “more” faith than they would have liked. It is very easy for us to judge based on quantity and objective standards so we can gauge or see how well we are doing. Nevertheless, the most obvious problem, but the hardest thing to fix or to accept, is that the secret to changing one’s perspective is not based on typical measurements that are based on “doing more” or “having more” of something. It is often based on strengthening a deeper sense of purpose, mission, or dedication. Instead of focusing on “doing” more of something, it is important to simply do small things with great love and devotion. I know… it sounds idiotic and oxymoronic, but this is where our true love resides and how we can practice intentional, personal, and intimate self-giving and be present to God and one another.
If we gauge our self’s worth, dignity, and value on what we can do, we run into the danger of burning ourselves out or objectifying ourselves and others based on what we can or need to give in return. It oftentimes leads us to be angry, resentful, or unhappy because other people — or even our very own self — cannot please or meet the ridiculous standards that we have set. At times, too, even God cannot please us! Why? Perhaps the simplest answer is that we are not simply happy. I know that it is hard to understand and see this, but no one can satisfy us — even our very own self — unless we learn to be content and seek happiness in small matters. If we cannot simply be happy, joyful, and content, then nothing else really matters and can fulfill us.
Instead of asking and worrying about WHAT can we or HOW we can maximize this or that, intentionally contemplate, pray, and reflect on the real reason WHY we are loved by God, WHO He is for us, and our identity in Him, and especially WHEN can we make time for Him. We lack patience because we constantly keep ourselves moving in vain and wanting “more” without really knowing the real purpose and reason that fulfill and give us life. Therefore, in order to practice patience, we need to seek the simplicity of heart to create enough space and time for God, ourselves, and one another. It is so important for us to learn to “waste time” with Him, doing little to nothing as to simply be present, receiving, and responding to His love.
The greatest freedom has always been found in how we can simply BE ourselves in all its genuineness, full of gratitude, filled with simplicity and childlike faith, and content with what we have instead of constantly worrying about what we need to DO in order to have more or this or that. To be honest, I have seen so many people who have spent their whole lives building up “more” for themselves but they have forgotten to give and spend themselves in a personal, intimate, and loving way to those who are around them. I have seen children having more toys and adults having more things than they could ever use but never happy because they quickly get bored of them. I have gone into houses where children and adult toys are everywhere, but the people in there are not happy with what they have! Nonetheless, I have also been in houses that are so simple and without much of our creature comforts, but so filled with the warm, loving, and genuine presence of love.
Therefore, let us remember that the greatest gift that we can offer to God and to one another is not based on what or how much “more” we think we need but on the simple act of gratitude, contentment, and loving presence to the Almighty and to one another. Those who have met a saint always said that they all felt loved, welcomed, and given the utmost attention as if they are the only ones present and important in the world at that moment. It is really hard to be focused, intentional, genuine, transparent, and caring in the present moment! We are easily distracted, held back, or worrying about other things but we can all try our best to learn to simply let go, choose to be present, and intentionally want and desire to “waste” time.
I believe that the greatest and most valuable gift is to know that we are worth someone’s time, especially when they personally care, are present, and respect us! There are so many things that we cannot solve in life, and we cannot fix everyone’s problems. At times, too, they really do not need our pity, money, quick fix, or answer, they just want to be heard, listened to, and cared for at the moment. That is why it is so important that we should try to slow down, practice patience, and learn to “waste” time being present to one another and to God.
As a priest, I can assure you that I cannot solve everyone’s problems or help them at times. In the beginning, I was so frustrated and defeated because I felt so helpless because it went against my human nature to “fix” things and “help” people. However, the Lord, through my spiritual directors, helped me to realize that I am called to be loving, caring, and fully present to people who come to me, to intercede for their needs, and to trust that He will take care of the rest instead of expecting that everything depends on me. Hence, I hope you and I realize that we can do none of those things if we cannot learn how to be present and loving toward God first and foremost! We cannot give what we do not receive first from Him; therefore, it is so important to come to prayers with little to nothing in expectations and demands as to learn to simply be in His presence. It is so hard, but so necessary, to be silent, receive, and bask in His goodness instead of coming to Him with a laundry list of things to ask for with a “hit and run” prayer style. Only when we learn to simply “waste time” with God can we learn to be present to others.
There is great freedom when we can learn to trust without our typical demands and expectations. When we allow ourselves to open up our eyes and expand our horizons to see things as He sees them, not only in the present moment but for eternity, we can begin to see how wonderfully He is working in our lives to care, provide, and love us in the most ordinary, unpretentious, and intimate ways. If we are constantly on the move, complaining, and only want to see things our way, we will end up missing what He is doing with a blink of our very own eyes, blinded by our myopic vision, and stuck in our own self-pities having what we want. So, if we simply slow down and have a childlike faith, we will be able to see how wonderfully He cares and provides for our needs (not our wants). Hence, learning from Him that the most valuable gift that we can receive and give to one another is the gift of personally choosing to be present, creating a loving, respectful, genuine, and self-giving space and time for Him and one another. This is truly a gift that anyone can give and receive because it costs nothing except the very own gift of ourselves, a gift that is valuable, based on the quality of love instead of the typical quantifiable matters. Therefore, let us give to one another and to God the greatest gift of ourselves by creating the needed space and time!