I was recently challenged and encouraged by a dear friend of mine who, by his own volition, decided that instead of only receiving on his birthday that he was going to subvert that cultural assumption and give verbal affirmation and gifts to those close to him. Pretty cool, right? I sat down for breakfast with him and he met me with a verbal articulation of a quality that he admired about me and then we had dutch chocolate-this was my favorite part. I was not expecting any of this, but I really was encouraged and challenged when I heard the quality that he affirmed about me.
My friend described me as one who has been present in our friendship-and no, not just physically present. He recalled the moments in our friendship when I was present to counsel, rejoice, or simply listen. At this point I assumed he was trying to make me cry, but thankfully he stopped before the first tear fell. I was encouraged and challenged all at the same time. (Side note: This could be read as someone who just trying to toot their own horn, and I guess you could read it that way, but let’s be honest here, if anyone’s horn needs some tooting, it’s my friend who went outside of himself on a day that is supposed to celebrate him and all he has done. That is a horn worth tooting, folks :).)
Presence is an interesting quality that I don’t feel I ever have ever really thought about explicitly, but it seems to be something we all want in a friend. When we meet with them we want to know that they are listening to what we are saying and that they want to be there with us. That’s presence. Presence is trying to find the moment that your friends are in and then inhabiting that emotion or situation alongside them. Job’s friends were present…at first. Read an old post here to see what I mean. Being present is a ministry in and of itself and I have a long way to go to figure out what this actually means, but I am humbled to know that some around me have experienced this quality at times.
For further reading on this subject, I would recommend Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.