This week I have focused on giving. The conversation has been shaped by some powerful stories and CS Lewis’s ideas about what it means to give. But, there is another aspect of giving I think people find even more challenging. In The Mockingbird Parables, I talk about the scenes in the Lee’s novel where Ms. Maudie and Scout sit silently on the front porch and watch the sunset. The older I get, the more I am convinced that one of the most difficult things to share with others is simply our presence. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe there is a profound requirement placed on us to give our money and our time to the point that we are uncomfortable. I believe we are all required to give of our resources to the poor. But, I am also convinced that part of what it means to be people of God involves learning to offer our true presence to our neighbors. We can learn to be intentional with our money and our resources and never really allow ourselves to connect with those in need. Giving, at some point,should be personal.
Oftentimes when we do offer our presence to others, we are tempted to bring our pat-religious answers and contrived solutions to them… It is difficult to simply sit with someone and be present. In a world of instant connection and constant distraction, this type of personal and intimate silence is not only awkward…it is nearly impossible to find!
I don’t know about you, but in my own life it seems I am constantly connected toa world ofdistraction — e-mail, Facebook, texting, Twitter (all from my phone!). I am constantly bombarded with messages about what I need, thoughts about where to go and what Ishould do next. When it comes to connecting with my neighbor in need, it seems it would be easier for me to mow their lawn or bring them dinner than to sit with them quietly — to be present — to listen. To make things worse, wereligious folks have been mistakenly taught that we should have all the answers. Sometimes it feels veryimpotent to sit with someone in need and not offer solutions… and yet, that is often how God sits with us.
When I think back on times of pain and grief in my own life, I find it so true that there were rarely words spoken in the moments of healing that meant the most to me. I think of Pastor Bob’s hug at my dad’s viewing, my friend Wayne meeting me at the pub after my sister’s funeral, and I think of Pastor Rick sitting with my wife and me in a silence of consolation… I don’t remember them having answers or solutions — I just remember that they were intentionally there — present with me in those moments.
The truth is, God offers us His presence above all else. He will be with us.
Sometimes we need to realize that to sit with someone in silence — to be present with them – is to offer them that samevery divine presence. I love this piece from The Burnside Writer’s Collective because it articulates the power of offering our presence to others in a beautiful way…