In the midst of this beautiful and busy season, take a moment to consider the people in your life who are stressed, hurting, grieving, or maybe even struggling in their faith right now — family members, friends, or even acquaintances for whom you are praying. (If this is you, sweet (in)courage friend, I’m praying especially for you right now.) It’s hard to imagine that at least one person isn’t coming to mind for every single one of us, possibly several. Though prayers matter and make a difference, do you lament not being able to do more, to offer a tangible expression of support or concern?
It was at the recent funeral of someone precious and dear to me that I was reminded of a simple but powerful gesture that expressed love, compassion, encouragement, and genuine care: just showing up.
Dear friends from our faith community two hometowns ago, life-long best friends, writing/blogging friends I would have never anticipated making the long drive, my husband’s work colleagues who drove four hours one-way to be with us, and also all the folks we might have expected to be there. Had any one of those out-of-towners told us they were planning to attend, we would have expressed our gratitude for their thoughtfulness while simultaneously protesting their attendance because of the inconvenience.
What I didn’t anticipate, what I was completely clueless about beforehand, was how glad I would be to see every sweet face, how loved, known, and valued their presence would make me feel. Their small act of “just” showing up made a huge difference. Absolutely every card, call, text, email, memorial gift, and flower expressed sympathy, love and were genuinely appreciated, but I underestimated the comfort of skin-to-skin contact. A hug has the magical ability to communicate love without words; a hug emoji doesn’t compare.
All of this got me thinking about the special times and different ways people have “just shown up” in my life. Earlier this year, my husband had a mild heart attack, and despite my protests, my sister, Lora, dropped everything to be with us. Also, though Tad had only a brief stay at the hospital, my friend Leigh brought us dinner; again, in spite of me telling her it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t think I needed either of those things, but the way I felt ministered to was telling. It happened again a few weeks ago when my sweet neighbors insisted on dropping off dinner after my mother-in-law’s death. I didn’t think I needed it because my two hands still worked, and yet something about my neighbor’s gesture felt holy. Every bite of that delicious meal tasted like love.
A lot of my showing-up memories are tied to moves we’ve made in the past. When we moved from Chattanooga, Paige showed up to help me pack (So did my sister — again. Her superpower might well be showing up for people.). Months later, Charles showed up to help empty our storage unit there; we had definitely underestimated our need for help, and it would have been a lot harder without him. Years earlier, my friend, Michelle, unexpectedly appeared at my back door with cleaning supplies in hand, declaring she “was there for me to put her to work.” I hadn’t asked for help, nor had she ask me if I needed it, but we were moving out of state, and with three young children at the time, getting anything done by myself was a challenge. To have someone just show up to help me work was akin to entertaining an angel unaware. I’ve never forgotten Michelle’s generous gift of time. There’s no way either of us could have known then how far-reaching her impact would be, and I’ve often thought about how I might pay it forward. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that sixteen years later Michelle was one of those from our South Carolina community who showed up at my mother-in-law’s funeral.
When I think about how people showing up has impacted me, it makes me want to be a showing-up sort of person for others. Sometimes logistics make it impossible to show up for someone you care about, and that’s okay. There is no reason to feel guilty because, thankfully, there are plenty of ways to express love and support or otherwise encourage them.
Yet, I know I’ve missed opportunities to be there for people at times, and I’m increasingly persuaded that showing up for others carries a beautiful sort of magic that ministers to heart and soul. It’s worth any inconvenience or sacrifice I have to make.
Lives are changed when we show up. And if you’re like me, you’ll find that in giving of yourself you receive grace upon grace in return.
It all makes sense, really, this showing up for those we love, those in need, those who are broken or struggling or grieving. Two thousand years ago, Jesus showed up, and lives were changed; by His Spirit and through His word, He’s still showing up today. It makes a lot of sense that as we behold Jesus, we become more like Him.
I needed Him to show up when I was struggling in my own faith — even when I didn’t realize I needed Him — and He was faithful to show up in His perfect timing. (As you’ll soon begin hearing more exciting news about For All Who Wander, releasing in January, you’ll see how His showing up was life changing for me.) Considering what Jesus has done for me makes me want to follow His lead.
See, the virgin will become pregnantand give birth to a son,
and they will name him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”
Matthew 1:23 (CSB)
Showing up is even in His name — Immanuel, God is with us. No, not magical, but indeed, beautiful.
Lives are changed when we show up. #grief #loss #comfort #Emmanuel -@robindance: Click To Tweet