Excerpts from Finding God in the hard places by Ashley Abercrombie
“Ash, how are you?” “Fine!” (Classic response when you are absolutely not fine.) “How are you?” I continued.
More small talk and then I hung up with my friend. Ten minutes later, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it and saw her standing there, I collapsed in a heap on the floor, and let out everything I had been bottling up inside.
She didn’t even say a word. She laid down next to me, and listened. Her presence felt so powerful. Without advice, solutions, or next steps, she just sat with me in my pain, and for the first time in a long time, I believed that I wasn’t alone.
There is power in presence. In the same way that God is with us, we demonstrate his character and nature when we choose to be with others. Presence provides comfort, care, and a sense of security. It’s choosing to sit down with someone in the middle of his or her journey, and say, “I’m here. I am not trying to fix you, heal you, save you, or correct you.”
There’s humility in presence. We usually don’t have the answer to life’s problems, and we don’t have to act like we do. We can just show up and be with people, as they process life, and look to God for His help. There is only one Savior, and we are not Him.
When we practice the ministry of presence, there is enough space for a person to feel safe enough to share. There is room for active listening, which allows us to peel back the present pain and allow context to provide understanding. Every choice we make has been informed by our history, shaped by the context we come from.
If we become better listeners than advice givers, we learn to know people, rather than fix people. When we seek to know each other, we tend to withhold judgment and engage as two people on the same level. That’s actually what the truth is at all times: The ground is level at the foot of the cross. None of us are any better or worse than the other. We’re all just walking each other home to Jesus.
I am confident what I shared with my friend that night might not have made her feel completely comfortable. (I was quite fabulous at being a heathen.) She withheld her judgment, and she didn’t withhold relationship with me after learning more about me. We began to trust each other and build a strong friendship over time.
Friendship is crucial as we navigate life. Doing our daily life alone really is the pits. We’re all hungry for meaningful connection and the kind of relationship where we can raid each other’s fridge and keep no thing hidden. We want to be received as we are now and encouraged to grow into who God created us to be. We find God as we love each other.
PRACTICE: Take a moment to consider the people in your life. Ask the Lord if there is anyone you can risk being brave enough to go deeper in relationship with. Call them today, and if there’s an opening, just show up. Bring yourself, and leave your good advice, your problem-solving skills, and your ideas to fix things at home. Actively listen and seek to know and understand your friend better.