The gift of presence

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Written by Jolene DeHeer

Through the Valentine holiday people expressed their love through cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, etc. These gestures of love and affection make the receiver feel accepted and valued as well as loved. As wonderful as these presents are, I would like to suggest a gift that has the potential to be a deeper expression of love…

The gift of presence.

Unfortunately, there are things that hinder us from giving this precious gift. On such hindrance is the expansion of electronic media and technology.

People sit across from each other yet are totally disconnected because they are each focusing on their phone. We give in to the addiction of checking our phones and we miss the opportunity to give the gift of being totally present for the person we are with. We need to begin to put down the phones and completely engage with the person in our presence.

Let’s listen…truly listen.

Not only to what they are saying, but also to what they are not saying. Make an effort to read their body language and ask clarifying questions. This type of total engagement speaks loudly and clearly that you value them so much you are willing to give them your time, your attention, your love… your presence.

The gift of presence also requires us to be willing to set aside our own problems and agendas so we can be free to be there for the other person.

It is a sacrificial dying to self so we can be used by God to encourage, comfort, and support others. This requirement keeps some people from experiencing the blessing of giving the gift of presence. Denying ourselves is one of the things Christ requires of us if we are to follow Him and it is one of the most difficult things for humans to do.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do it in our own power.

In the Spirit’s power, we can know the pure joy of being empty of self and full of God’s compassion for whatever struggles or pain they are dealing with. It takes courage to be share another’s suffering. But being present for them at their greatest hour of need is a profound gift of love.

Not only does technology and the desire for self-protection hold us back from giving each other the gift of presence, but so does fear.

Just when people are going through difficult times and need us the most we tend to pull back. It is extremely difficult to look into the face of someone’s pain and suffering. We want to fix it and make it better. We want the pain to go away. We fear we won’t say the right things. We want them to stop crying and be happy.

But we can’t fix it, the tears don’t stop, and happiness is a long way off. At times like this, the very best gift we can give is the gift of our presence…not words or solutions…presence.

During my husband’s last hours on earth, my friend stood beside me in the hospital room. She didn’t speak. She didn’t preach. She didn’t quote scripture or offer advice. She was just there, and I was greatly comforted!

Speaker/author Brene Brown says, “Sometimes the bravest most important thing you can do is just show up.”

We are not called to “fix” problems. We are called to show up.

We are not called to make people happy. We are called to show up.

We are not called to give sage advice. We are called to show up.

We are not called to quote scripture. We are called to show up.

We are not called to share our problems or diminish theirs. We are called to show up.

We are not called to keep them from crying. We are called to show up.

A time will come when sharing scripture together will be a great comfort. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel. The grief and sadness will have abated, but until then, the most powerful gift of love we can give our loved ones and friends is our presence…non-judging, non-condemning, loving, patient presence.

I will close with this quote from Woody Allen, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And with this biblical command from Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

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