I may be a senior citizen, but I’m still young enough to be a groupie. So, who do I follow? David Benner! As a counselor myself, he has dramatically influenced my work. Benner is a depth psychologist, spiritual guide, and transformation coach. Following his development over the years has been fascinating. His roots are in psychology, but his soul care work has leaned more in the direction of theology.
My husband beat me to it. He ordered Benner’s new book, Presence and Encounter, at the recommendation of his spiritual formation group leader, Marilyn Elliott. But, my eagerness to read it lead him to slip it to me on a flight from Baltimore to Atlanta. I was hooked again.
“Rich” is the only word I can use to adequately describe the book. On another snowy Kentucky morning, I sat in my favorite reading chair, with a steaming cup of coffee. I felt the urge to go back and reread the treasures I had unearthed. As I reflected on the many underlined sentences, a few jumped out at me. Even though I recommend purchasing this book, I hope Benner’s ideas lead you closer to experiencing God each and every day.
Here are six truths that I want to tuck away:
1. Presence is defined by Benner as “…the awakening that calls us into engagement with some aspect of the present moment” (p. 2). Benner’s definition reminds me of the concept of “mindfulness.” I have a habit of wolfing down my lunch in-between clients. Slowing down might help me to see the beauty of the orange that God created.
2. “The sacred and the secular are one single fabric of life” (p.115). How often do I separate my life in church on Sunday from my driving when the person in front of me dawdles far below the speed limit?
3. As an older lady, one of my goals is to strip off my false self. When I arrive in heaven, I want God to know me as He created me. Benner says, “We become the fictions we live we during the first halves of our lives” (p.7). He confirmed the task for my second half of life.
4. “We will never hope to know the presence of God or other people until we can be with ourselves in stillness, openness, and attentiveness” (p. 29). I have a brain that goes a hundred miles an hour in many directions. I could be the poster child for multitasking. But, I have learned that the more time I spend in the quiet, just sitting on my porch or walking on the adjoining farm, the easier it is to quiet my mind and sense God’s presence.
5. Benner says “We need to relearn the natural human capacity for relating to the world through eyes of awe and wonder” (p. 31). I camped out on the word “relearn.” Didn’t Moses immediately see the burning bush? It makes me contemplate the world today and why we have to relearn this innate ability.
6. “Presence invites presence” (p. 72). Three simple but profound words. I have noticed, as a counselor, that when I am fully present to my client he/she suddenly engages in a fully present way as well. What a gift this is from one human to another.
I pray that these six simple truths will draw you to engage with the Jesus who is always there just awaiting an opportunity for you to open your hands to the gifts He has for you.