Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Gift of "Presence"

Just last night I had a conversation with a fairly new pastor. Many years ago I was his Sunday school teacher and recently was reconnected to him through the magic of Facebook. Anyway, he just began a new pastorate two weeks ago and called me wanting some feedback. You see the situation was that someone in his church found himself in intensive care after suffering a stroke. The man is in his mid-forties and devestated and confused. Wouldn't you or I be? Well, my friend wanted to run the details of his initial visit with this man by me  because he wasn't sure he handled it properly. I felt honored to be on the other end of that conversation.
Here is his pastoral dilemma.
What does anyone say to a man that is suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually over the apparent tragedy that just happened in his young life? And, how do I answer the "why" questions about his situation? Also, did I say the right things to him?
Well, after listening to this wonderful young man of God I encouraged him by letting him know that he offered his best care. Here is why: Not because he answered all of his questions but because he gave him his presence. You see, there are so many times in the midst of an apparent tragedy that we think we need to have answers to the big questions, most of which contain the word: Why? When, in actuality aren't we really asking for someone to stand alongside of us and walk with us through the crisis? Seriously, do we really expect that our spiritual leaders and mentors can answer the most elusive questions of time eternal? I don't believe so. One of my mentors and spiritual advisors offered me this great story early in my ministry. Here is how it kind of goes:
     A man is walking down the road and falls into a deep hole. The walls are slick and steep and he cannot climb out on his own. A teacher comes by and asks him what he might have learned from his mishap. Then a philosopher happens by the hole and ponders the meaning of the hole in this man's life. A religious leader comes to the edge of the hole and asks the man if he believes God put him in that mess. Then, along comes Jesus and after surveying his dilemma, climbs down into the pit and says to him: Let's get out of this together.
Okay, so what is the meaning here? I think it's pretty obvious. In the immediacy of our circumstances we often think that we need someone to solve our dilemma for us, when in reality we need the presence of someone who cares about us and what we are facing and offers their help. So many times in my life and ministry I have discovered the healing power of a friend standing with me, or having the privilege of being that friend. Is that true for you? I'll bet it is.
So, my faithful readers, take a moment and look back at the times that you have been in a crisis. What meant the most to you: the solution or the support? And when someone calls on you in their own "hole", what would serve them best: offering your solutions or your support? It's a good question and one that can be answered.
Finding Real Freedom means being present for a friend sometimes. Believe me, a time is coming when you will need it as well...