I am taking a spiritual formation class this semester, and one thing we have been talking about recently is truly being present with people. Present in the mundane, present in the messiness, present in the highs, present in the lows. Presence is the idea of completely setting myself, my agenda, my problems, my joys aside, and truly listening to the other person. Presence is allowing someone to fully express the depths of their emotion without interjecting my advice or my stories.
Our professor begins our class every Tuesday and Thursday with a spiritual practice. Tuesday we began with an imagination prayer exercise in which we imagined ourselves sitting and talking with Jesus about things which we had recently been on our hearts. As I sat there next to Jesus, I poured my heart out to him. Words came tumbling out of my mouth as they often do when I’m at my most vulnerable place. The interesting thing to me was not what I said, however, but what Jesus did in response. Rather than tell me some grand advice or comforting word, Jesus just held me. Jesus, God Incarnate, the Savior of the world, simply hugged me.
At first this was frustrating to me. Why didn’t Jesus tell me something? But as I’ve had time to think and process this experience, I began to realize Jesus did the only appropriate thing. He was present with me. He listened to me. He gave me space to express my deepest heartaches and frustrations and He sat with me in that place. I wonder how often Jesus desires to be present with me, but I fill our time together with a bunch of words. Not that words are bad, they are a necessary part of our lives and play an appropriate role in prayer. But sometimes I think Jesus desires to sit with us and offer the comfort of His touch but we miss it because we are so busy talking at Him.
I’ve often wondered how some people spend hours in prayer. “I would run out of things to say,” I’ve often thought. But perhaps that’s the point. These people are not spending hours talking but simply being and allowing Jesus to be with them. We expect answers when we pray. What if the answer is Jesus’ presence?
The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions. We have been to the deepest, darkest valley and back again. Through it all, I have been overwhelmed by God’s presence and the peace He brings. Sometimes presence is more powerful than words or answers. With presence comes peace.