Psalm One Ministries
I had a wonderful, renewing experience last week. No, I didn’t jet off to Paris. I wasn’t lounging on a beach. I didn’t win a million dollars.
I told a bit of my story and someone listened. Really listened.
I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be in a safe community of others in ministry who were there to slow down, listen, seek God, and let God show up and have His way. If you’ve ever been in that environment, you know how much our souls need it. I am so privileged and grateful to have a ministry of pouring into others. And I cannot fully express how wonderful it was to have my own bucket filled.
It wasn’t through brilliant teaching (although I so appreciate great biblical and practical input). It wasn’t through spectacular worship (although music and guided worship can help focus me on God). It wasn’t through strategic planning and implementing of ministry plans (although we to think through strategies and visions for how God may be leading us).
It was the ministry of presence. Profoundly simple. Simply profound.
Genuine community means to communicate, to participate, in all its essence: to share together. It’s far more than just having people in the same room. To have someone be 100% present with you is a tremendous blessing. I believe authentic community is necessary for our spiritual growth and transformation into the image of the Trinity. In genuine community, I learn to live out of my real self and peel off the layers of the false self and the image management. Have you experienced those unscripted, unhurried, uninterrupted times of fellowship when you know you are standing on holy ground?
Some of us experience that regularly—though our marriages, our families, our friends, our churches, our ministries, and our other connections. We enjoy true community that feeds our souls. I have an amazing mother who shares and asks and listens. I have great friends who come alongside me in life, and laugh and cry and ponder and wonder and think and spout wisdom and hear my wacky tales and leave me with a bigger, clearer view of God every time we have lunch.
But a lot of the daily experience is closer to what psychologists now refer to as CPA: Continuous Partial Attention. We often experience being 10% present with people. Touching base while we run errands, surf the net, work, text, watch TV, listen to podcasts, and multitask with blazing efficiency. And to us, that’s plenty. Because of CPA, many of us have become incapable of giving our full attention to anything or anyone. We think it’s wonderful to bless someone with a fraction of our attention. After all, we’re busy people!
I think of a friend of mine whose little daughter was trying to tell him something she thought was important. He was reading the paper (yes, this is way back when people read these things called newspapers—which were actually made of paper!) while absentmindedly saying, “Yes, Honey, I’m listening.” Finally, she pushed between his knees, grabbed his face in her tiny hands, pointed his eyes to hers, got nose to nose, and said, “Daddy, listen!”
I think that is often God’s call to us. To pull out of the whirlwind into the silence and solitude for a few minutes to get eye to eye with the Lord. And occasionally to give someone else the precious ministry of presence.
It takes time, energy, patience, and silence to be someone who is safe and helps people see God. It can be exhausting to be fully present and to listen well. Not to fix, not to advise, not to correct, not to psychoanalyze. Certainly not to plaster with bumper stickers, platitudes, and pat answers. But to take someone’s hand, put it in the hand of Jesus, and get out of the way. To come alongside and lift someone up to the Lord. Such a simple exercise, but so powerful. And in reality far too rare.
Of course, we can’t do this all the time. I’m not suggesting that. But as a gift to others, and as a life-giving spiritual discipline for our own growth, could we try to do it just a little bit more?
For five minutes this week, put everything down, shut everything off, and give your full attention to one person. Your spouse, your child, a friend, a coworker, someone in the grocery store. Don’t fix them, don’t tell them what to do. Just listen. And give them the inestimably wonderful present of presence.
You might even try that with Jesus…
In His love.