The Gift of Presence

I receive a devotional through Facebook called “God Wants You to Know.”  They come at random and I find I am always blessed by what they has to say. A recent one said:

On this day, God wants you to know that…

…you are never alone.

As special needs parents, it is easy to feel alone at times. It can be a very isolating experience.  Having a family member, friend, prayer partner or congregation walk with us through that journey is enormously helpful and healing.

Recently, Dr. Steve Grcevich wrote in his blog at Key Ministry, “Give families the gift of presence…Isolation is an unfortunate byproduct of many of the more common mental health conditions we treat. Being present for those who are hurting in difficult times is an immediate expression of the love of Christ.” This gift of presence applies beyond mental health treatment to the isolation we feel as parents of children with chronic conditions, whether they are physical, developmental, intellectual or behavioral. Being present for those who are hurting offers God’s presence lived out in flesh and bone.

One of the most beautiful biblical examples of the gift of presence is seen in the story of Ruth.  Due to a famine in Bethlehem, the family of Elimelech and Naomi moved to the land of Moab and lived there for so long that their sons grew up and married there. Later the family patriarch died, as did the two sons. Having lost their husbands, three widows were living together facing an uncertain future.  In a culture where all f your wealth and status was tied to the men in your life, this was a very precarious position. There is a reason the Bible prompts so often to remember the widow. Namoi urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families where they could be taken in and hope to remarry since they were still young enough to have children.  Naomi, past child-bearing age, chose to travel to her home country alone and into an uncertain future. One daughter-in-law returned to her home:

But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die– there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”  (Rut 1:16-17 NRS)

Talk about the gift of presence!  Ruth was all in, despite putting her own future at risk. What an incredible witness to God’s ability to fill the gift of presence! 

That gift of presence pops up in unexpected ways.  A parent recently contacted me looking for a prayer partner.  God brought to her a great prayer partner with a shared life experience and both have contacted me saying they have been blessed with that connection.  Another parent who has been struggling to find time to connect more closely with her husband in the midst of many therapies, extreme medical needs, and three children with hectic schedules, found the gift of presence in a weather make-up day at school when she and her husband were both off work for a holiday. A guilt-free indulgence of a whole day for just the two of them to be fully present with each other was an enormous blessing. Today I just left a meeting with a church planning to start their very first special needs outreach. They are a bit anxious about that future, mainly out of a sense of wanting to meet the need with excellence, but the gift of presence they are providing is enormous to those who need that opportunity to be welcomed, heard and filled with the hope of Christ in connection with each other. 

The gift of presence comes in all kinds of shapes and it is a blessing in the lives of those who give and receive it each and every time. Thinking back to the most challenging times in my life, key people come to mind who walked with me through the darkest of times.  I can also think of times when I tried to pay that gift forward to others.  How have you given the gift of presence?  How have you experienced it when you needed it for yourself?

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