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Presence > Progress

Have you ever walked into the gym for the wrong reason? That may sound like a strange question, because after all, you walked into the gym right. It’s reasonable to think that if someone makes the effort to get some form of physical exercise, regardless of the motive, the outcome is still going to be good. But I would argue that the driving factors behind our decisions have more to do with not only the downstream results, but also the joy and satisfaction in the journey that lies ahead.

Take Athlete #1. She’s a highly motivated go getter. When she comes to the gym, it’s all business. Not that she isn’t friendly and social, but there’s something about that countdown clock. She also loves to log her results. Most of the time. Lately she’s been trying to get a PR but hasn’t been successful. Her desire for results is now her primary focal point. So much so, that she can actually drive home from a killer workout in almost a state of mini depression if her effort didn’t show she was making progress. Sound familiar?

Now take Athlete #2. She’s also highly motivated and a hard worker. She loves a good workout as much as Athlete #1. But for Athlete #2, walking into the gym is the goal. Sure, she’ll still post her results, and she’ll scroll through to hit the like button on some of the other athletes, but when she’s in the gym her goal is presence. She looks forward to the pointers from her coaches. She likes to take a moment in the workout to look around and see the community suffering with her. Make no mistake, this girl still loves progress, but unlike Athlete #1, whose whole day is based on the results of a workout, Athlete #2 finds satisfaction in simply being there. She has chosen to prioritize presence over progress.

So, what’s your barometer for satisfaction in life? Do you have a “life” to-do list? You know, graduate from college, get a high-paying job, get married, buy a house, have kids, go on vacations, retire early, spend time with the grandkids. People who focus more on progress often miss the opportunity to be fully present because they either spend their lives checking boxes and setting new “personal bests,” or they live life disappointed that they’re not making the progress they expected. Presence says, “Savor this moment.” Progress says, “This moment needs to be better than the last one.”

If there’s one thing many of us were given last year when COVID arrived, it was the opportunity to assess our priorities. With much of our to-do list erased, we had to re-order what was left. I pray that you would reflect on some of those moments and realize the deep value in simply being present. When you prioritize presence over progress, you’ll discover a richness to life you never knew existed.

Questions for Reflection:

Are there areas of your life where you prioritize progress over presence?

Describe the tension between wanting God to do things in your life and simply existing in the life He's created for you.

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