In the next to last chapter of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, I wrote, “The reason we want to become people of presence is that it greatly increases our chances for connection, and there is nothing our souls crave more than a meaningful connection with another person.”
You may not consciously believe that, but deep within you—regardless of how introverted you may be—is a desire to truly connect with another person. That’s why I think it’s so important to practice being present so that you can one day be a person of presence.
This need to be present was indelibly marked upon me when I worked as a hospital chaplain intern shortly after graduating from seminary. One terribly grief-stricken woman once bombarded me with questions as to why a good God would allow her husband to fall into a coma for nine months and then die. Despite my years of schooling to deal with moments just like that, I wasn’t able to care for her pain.
In fact, I may have left the room without saying a word. I just didn’t know how to handle her deep grief and her need to connect with someone, especially considering her recent and very significant loss.
When I told my supervisor about the encounter, she said something I’ll never forget: “You have to focus on the ministry of presence.”
She suggested I go back to her and simply spend time with her. I didn’t have to have the answers for her hard questions. I just needed to understand her experience and be a present, listening ear.
Back then I learned a hard, wise lesson that I still carry with me today: offering my presence, and particularly in hard times, is the best gift I can give others in my life.
Do you do the same?