Being Present to One Another

Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSV
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching

Let me describe what it means to be truly present. Being present involves letting go of our constant preoccupations, immersing ourselves in the here and now, and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever is at hand. … It’s about becoming more aware, alert, awake to the fullness of the immediate moment. If we are with another person, it means engaging with him or her with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. Such wholehearted attention requires patience, time, and disciplined effort. And it is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to those around us, especially our suffering neighbor. — Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes

1 Peter 1:22 NRSV
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

Though any sincere prayer of the heart seems valid to me, I must admit that my own practice of intercessory prayer has changed over the years. One day I received a disturbing phone call about a friend’s illness; my heart twisted in concern and love. At the same time my head raised the question “How should you pray for her?” From somewhere deep inside me, I heard “You just did.” Maybe the quickening of compassion formed the heart of the prayer. Maybe the actual words were for me, not God. Maybe God hears the soul’s sincere desire, not only our carefully crafted words. We pray more unspoken prayers than we realize. – Linda Douty, Rhythms of Growth

Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing . ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

You can survive on your own
You can grow strong on your own
You can prevail on your own
but you cannot become human on your own.
– Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

“How do you work with the poor?”
“You don’t. You share your life with the poor.”
It’s as basic as crying together. It is about “casting your lot” before it ever becomes about “changing their lot.” Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until he was crucified—whichever came first.
– Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Empathy communicates trust. And people perform best when they feel trusted. When I sit with you in your mistake or failure without trying to change anything, I’m letting you know that you’re okay, even when you don’t perform. And, counter-intuitively, feeling okay about yourself — when you fail — makes you feel good enough to get up and try again. Most of us miss that. Typically, when people fail, we blame them. Or teach them. Or try to make them feel better. All of which, paradoxically, makes them feel worse. It also prompts defensiveness as an act of self-preservation. (If I’m not okay after a failure, I’d better figure out how to frame this thing so it’s not my failure.) Our intentions are fine; we want the person to feel better, to learn, to avoid the mistake again. We want to protect our teams and our organizations. But the learning — the avoidance of future failures — only comes once they feel okay about themselves after failing. And that feeling comes from empathy. – Peter Bregman, The Right Way to Respond to Failure

Romans 12:9-10 NRSV
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

My Bishop, Allan Bjornberg, once said that the greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty although these are all beautiful in their own way. The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up. And in some ways Mary Magdalen is like, the patron saint of just showing up. Because showing up means being present to what is real, what is actually happening. She didn’t necessarily know what to say or what to do or even what to think….but none of that is nearly as important as the fact that she just showed up. – Nadia Bolz Weber, Sermon about Mary Magdalen, the masacre in our town, and defiant alleluias

I say to my non-Christian friends and neighbors, if you want to see the gospel of Christ, the gospel that has energized this church for two thousand years, turn off the television. The grinning cartoon characters who claim to speak for Christ don’t speak for him. Find the followers who do what Jesus did. Find the people who risk their lives to carry a beaten stranger to safety. Find the houses opened to unwed mothers and their babies in crisis. Find the men who are man enough to be a father to troubled children of multiple ethnicity and backgrounds. And find a Sunday School class filled with children with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol syndrome. Find a place where no one considers them “weird” or “defective,” but where they joyfully sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” That might not have the polish of television talk-show theme music, but that’s the sound of bloody cross gospel.
– Russell D. Moore, Pat Robertson vs. the Spirit of Adoption

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2 thoughts on “Being Present to One Another

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