“Oh there you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
“I’ve been right here the whole time.”
Life gives us seasons – and this is one of them – when we are reminded that the greatest blessings come in the form of the simple happiness of relationships. Working together. Enjoying down time together. Praying together. Simply enjoying the Gift of Being There…
It’s one of the most common prayer requests you’ll hear, especially for someone who’s going though “the stuff.” The theology is a little strange, because somebody’s asking God to do what He is already doing. But we all sort of know what it means: “Lord, be with them during this time.” We’re asking God to give someone else the Gift of Being There.
I can’t think of a more God-like expression of generosity, grace, and love than what some people call “the ministry of presence.” It doesn’t depend on profound words or lavish expressions of awesomeness. It doesn’t require special training or a piece of paper hanging on your wall. All it takes is the kindness of your intentions and the investment of your attention. All it takes is offering the Gift of Being There.
Being There means being the early light in somebody else’s day. Much like my daughter, who routinely calls her mom and chats while she’s getting ready for work. The life and energy that grows out of something so ordinary – yet so faithfully consistent – can’t be measured. Like the regulars in the coffee shop or the familiar faces in your corner of Church World, The Gift of Being There helps people reset their compasses, and reminds them that the world is still turning.
Being There does mean praying with others, but it takes it one step further. It remembers. It means continuing to pray for that person, even when the sanctioned time is over. It means being thoughtful enough to ask later how things are going, or how the request(s) turned out. By reminding someone that you haven’t forgotten, you’ve sent a powerful message: Even when we’re apart, I’m still praying… and I’m still here.
Being There means fueling someone else’s passion by keeping yours aflame. It means being an ever-present example of one who stirs up your own gifts in hopes that others will do the same. The Gift of Being There doesn’t demand that others mimic your style or methods, or even share your opinions. But it does challenge others to love as deeply, believe as fervently, and hold on as tenaciously to the things and people that really matter.
Being There means going beyond the fair-weather friends and Pharisees and showing up in someone’s life when everybody else is checking out. Right or wrong, lost or found, the Gift of Being There isn’t earned by gaining approval. It’s an expression of grace and unconditional love. One of the things I’ve learned the hard (and blessed) way is that the people who love me, love me. Regardless of time, distance, or the choices I make, they offer the Gift of Being There.
Being There means staying alert to danger. It recognizes that everybody has a blind side, and offers to be part of the solution. Being There means refusing to be silent when a beloved friend is under attack or on the edge of a fatal choice. It speaks the truth in love, it sounds the alarm, it draws the sword, it asks the accountable questions, it runs the risk of being misunderstood… all for the sake of protecting someone you care about.
Being There means being someone else’s True North. And that starts with being true to your own direction, and nurturing your own relationship with the Light of the World. That’s why Paul could say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” He wasn’t bragging. He was following! And in the process, he was offering to be the light in someone else’s darkness. Even from a distance, he was offering the Gift of Being There… and so can you.
Is it any wonder that the last promise Jesus made before ascending into heaven was, “I am with you always?” Is it any wonder that the promise of eternal life is framed by “He will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God?”
We were created with a deep need for presence. Not presents… presence. The Gift of Being There.
Be like Jesus. Be the solution to someone else’s need… the expression of His desire and faithfulness.
Be the light in someone else’s darkness… the watcher in someone else’s night.
Be the pathfinder, who blazes new trails to follow or points old friends to the familiar paths.
Be the fire that lights desire in someone else to fulfill their own calling or destiny.
Be the voice of truth, even when it isn’t popular, and the voice of love, even when it isn’t understood.
Be the grace-carrier, who loves by choice and risks all to model the friendship of forgiveness.
When words fail and money is nowhere to be found, offer to others the gift that exceeds words, that money can’t buy. Show up! Offer the Gift of Being There.
And don’t be surprised when you hear something that, when translated, says, “There you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”