The holy man was reverenced with so great gratitude that where he remained for a time in a house, all hearts were resolved to practice the faith more strictly.
- Jonas, Life of St. Columban, Italian, 7th century
And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
- Luke 24.32
Some people affect us powerfully just by their presence. And not always for the better.
We’ve all known people who are so self-absorbed, inconsiderate of others, and focused on their own qualities and interests that they repulse and sadden us. They seem to think the world revolves around them, and there’s nothing more we’d like to hear about than more about them.
Yeah, no thanks. I despise that tendency in myself, and I don’t find it attractive in anybody else.
Then there is the occasional person whose presence exudes divine glory – something indescribable but real, something that turns our souls heavenward with wonder. Here we encounter peace, patience, confidence, considerateness, excellence, goodness, forebearance, and love all rolled up into a single person. Such virtues fill the room, like Mary’s perfume, freed from its bottle, and everyone is aware of a most agreeable presence.
Granted, those folks are few and far between, but we’ve all known them.
What kind of response does our presence evoke? Are we withdrawn, reticent, brooding, or unfriendly in the company of others? So caught up in ourselves that others may as well not exist? Are we critical, complaining, noisy, or all-knowing? More eager to speak than to listen?
Are we more a savor of death to death than of life to life (2 Cor. 2.14-16)?
Only God can enliven us with His warmth, refocus us by His intense interest in the souls of others, and grant us the grace to show His abiding concern to hear, heal, and renew. By spending more time waiting on the Lord, meditating on His beauty and contemplating His majesty, greatness, mercy, and power, we may enter more consistently into His glory, there to be transformed by His Spirit into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
We must keep a close watch on ourselves and listen for the Spirit to convict us of any areas where we are not embodying the resurrection life of Jesus (Ps. 139.23, 24). We must put off any old ways of life that savor of selfishness and death, and be clothed with Jesus, in all His seeking, caring, holy, and glorious ways (Eph. 4.17-24).
Then we might bring more of the fragrance of life to the people we encounter each day.
If this is to happen, if being around us is to cause others to experience glory, to be enlivened with hope, and to long for transcendent things, it will only be as Jesus becomes more vitally and consistently present through our lives. We just don’t have it in us to be a positive, edifying presence at all times; but because we have Jesus in us, the possibility that our lives might become a fragrance of life to life for many is very real.
Whom will you be with today? How will they experience your presence? Will your attentiveness, compassion, kindness, interest, and gentleness lift their souls heavenward? Are you preparing for that time of presence even now, committing yourself to the Lord, interceding for those you will be with, setting your heart and mind to serve rather than to be served?
Or will we just be like everyone else who drains others to fill their own needs, rather than kindles the flame of heavenly wonder and delight in their souls?
Pray that you might be more like Columbanus, and that everyone who comes into contact with you resolves to be a better person, and to want more of what they see in you.
1. How can you remind yourself throughout the day that it’s more important to give than to get?
2. What about Jesus warms and encourages you? How can you be more like that?
Psalm 139.23, 24 (Ripley: Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
Search my heart, O Lord, and know me, as You only, Lord, can do.
Test my thoughts and contemplations, whether they be vain or true.
Let there be no sin in me, Lord, nothing that Your Spirit grieves.
Lead me in the righteous way, Lord, unto everlasting peace!
Be present in me and with me today, O Lord, so that I may…
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Jonas, p. 21.