He sat at the table answering a barrage of emails while I meticulously fit another load of dishes into the dishwasher. Standing over a sink full of dirty dishes has always been a sacred act for me. I scrub away the grime as God kneads my heart. It’s my secret place – the spot where He and I wrestle through my most tender hurts and most stubborn sins. This particular day was no different.
I was soul-weary and pretty sure I’d found the one mountain God couldn’t move. I turned on the faucet, pushed up my sleeves and waited for the water to warm. With both hands gripping the counter, I closed my eyes to pray. No words came but tears began to run, and that’s when I opened my eyes to see my sweet husband looking at me. He had never observed my sacred, dish-washing, worship session, and his confusion quickly turned to concern.
“What’s wrong, honey? Are you okay?” With those two simple questions, my husband inserted himself into my pain.
I’ve found that many people are willing to sit with you in pain, but only temporarily. After a moment the anguish becomes too uncomfortable, and it makes much more sense to add our own two cents to the situation. There’s a story in the bible of a man who lost everything. His kids died, his livelihood was destroyed, and his house collapsed. At the end of Job 2, his friends show up. Verse 11 says, “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.” Friends who come running are invaluable! Verse 13 continues, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.”
A ministry of presence is one of the greatest things we have to offer others. Not solutions, not money, not opinions, and not even food (although I do like food). As followers of Jesus – the ones who embody the Spirit of God in our ordinary, walking-around selves – nothing is better than being present. Community can heal. Colossians 3:15 in The Message version reads, “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.”
Life with Christ isn’t about picking yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s about letting others enter into the messiest parts of your life and walking with you toward healing. It’s about being present, even in silence. Pursuit of community has been one of the most humbling parts of my journey with Jesus because it doesn’t matter what I have to give. It only matters that I show up. This is hard for me because I like to contribute. Who wants to enter with empty hands? We all want to feel useful…worthy. But Jesus modeled emptiness so we wouldn’t have to obsess over ranks and worthiness. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to come with empty hands because that’s exactly what Jesus did.
He showed us how to love by being present. He healed us with his very body. When rules and regulations and theories couldn’t set us free, Jesus knew that only his flesh and blood would be enough. Maybe our flesh-and-blood presence can heal the world too.