Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. – Deuteronomy 6
The passage above is one of the most important biblical texts for both Jews and for Christians. Many theologians see Deuteronomy 6 (also known as the Shema) as God’s strong claim to be the one and only God in a time and place where polytheism was common. However, the ambiguity of the original Hebrew words offers some room for play.
My Hebrew professor suggested that “the LORD is one” might very well be an acknowledgment of God’s undivided-ness. God is one, whole, never split in his care and attention toward his people. The LORD is one. The second sentence, then, becomes an invitation for God’s people to be one in their attention back to God—the very thing that happens when we love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might.
Being one is not something we’re very good at this day in age. Right now I have 11 tabs open on my Internet browser. You can call me, text me, tweet me, facetime me, Skype me, email me, or message me and I’ll know within 5 seconds because I’m partially “present” to all these avenues. I’m writing this blog while watching TV while having a conversation with my wife while texting my brother. Really.
Our culture breeds dividedness in countless clever ways. While I’m by no means anti-technology, one effect of our modern gadgets is that we’ve become absent while being present. I’m here, but I’m also somewhere else. I’m with you, but I’m also with them. We’ve become so incredibly efficient that a person can be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The faster you go, the more productive you can be, the busier you become, the more worlds you can live in at nearly the same time…and what has happened to the God I worship and the people I love? They’ve become dashes on a long list of things to do. I can no longer give myself in love, but only pieces of my attention—an eye, an ear, but never all of me.
But son, listen carefully: God refuses to be one of your tabs. He’s not interested in being one of your many distractions. God wants you. He wants you to be with Him heart, soul, mind, and body. Whole. One. Perhaps God’s gift of a Sabbath day is one way for us to stop and be present to God’s presence in the midst of a busy schedule. Sabbath is a reminder that one doesn’t run after God by going faster, but by slowing down.
When present-ness is our goal, children become our teachers (perhaps this is part of the reason Jesus says that we must become like kids to participate in the Kingdom of God). I’ve noticed this lately with my niece. No matter how many times I throw her in the air, or play “peekaboo”, or simply act like she stung my hand after a good high five, she always wants to keep playing as though this is the one thing on her schedule for the day, as though her entire world for the time being has a population of two.
Presence isn’t about being in more places, but being more in a place. Presence is about value, substance, authenticity, being one. Hurry and worry are two excellent ways of being somewhere else while being right here. Slowing down and trusting is the only way to be present.
The Living God is here, now. The question is, are you?