When There Are No Words
Our eyes met across the sanctuary after the service. I knew she wanted to talk. I had no idea what I was going to say. There was nothing to say. Words were inadequate.
As we made our way toward one another I muttered a quick prayer, “God help me. I don’t know how to respond!” As I went to enter the row of chairs, she slumped down in one of them and dropped her head. I embraced her tightly. She sobbed. Loud sobs muffled in my shoulder as the tears poured down.
I gripped her silently. She heaved her chest and poured out her pain for what seemed like hours. Finally, she pulled away. Without meeting my eyes, she whispered two simple words, “Thank you.” I lifted up her chin so she could see my face and smiled down at her. I said nothing, but my smile communicated one thousand thoughts and it was sufficient. I understood her pain, loved her in her mess and accepted her just as she was.
The Power of Presence
Sometimes we don’t need to say anything. Sometimes we don’t need to do anything. And most of the time, we DON’T need to give advice. We need to just be there.
I notice something lately at church. When the service is over, most of the women reach into their purses and check their phones. With just one hour away there are emails, text messages and social media interactions that need a response. (Include me in this habit!) But you know what? There is a room full of people that need us too. People sitting and standing next to us, waiting for us to make eye contact. People who need someone to hold them while they cry. People who need a smile. People who are new to our town and would give anything for a lunch invitation.
People who just want to be noticed.
If we could be fully present on Sunday morning- with eyes and hearts open to the needs around us- we’d be a pretty unexplainable church, wouldn’t we?
The Partnership of Presence
One of the things I noticed in Paul’s life was the faithfulness of God to bring him exactly who he needed in order to fulfill the call God had given him. Never once do we see Paul working alone. He always sought out partners in life and ministry. Could it be the person sitting next to you on Sunday is exactly the person God has planned for you on this leg of your journey? If we choose to be present and truly engage with those around us, we may be surprised at what God has in store!
We live in a noisy, selfish, distracted world. Being a person who is fully present in any situation is pretty unexplainable. To whom could you offer a ministry of presence this week?
This blog post is an excerpt from Erica’s latest Bible Study The Unexplainable Church: Reigniting the Mission of the Early Believers by Moody Publishers.
To explore an online community working their way through this study, click here!