"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

05 November 2010

Practicing the Presence of People

As Christians, we very often speak of practicing the presence of God (or we're familiar with the concept). This week, in our all-church study, we talked about being emotionally mature people and what that means. An aspect of that was being the kind of people who are able to love people well because we are loved by God and because we love Him. Scazzero says, "Jesus' profound contemplative prayer life with his Father resulted in a contemplative presence with people. Love is 'to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves,' wrote Jean Vanier. Jesus did that with each person he met. ...This ability to really listen and pay attention to people was at the very heart of his mission. It could not help but move him to compassion."

It was a challenging thought for me. I don't think I'm bad at loving people, per se, but I certainly am not good at it. I think of all the needs in the world, and I feel helpless. I also often feel anger towards people who have all the essentials to live a good life and squander it. Furthermore, I get overwhelmed from time to time with my own needs and the needs of those closest to me that I feel like it's more than I can handle sometimes to reach out to strangers.

Last night, as we were talking about this week's study at our community group, we were going over the story of the Good Samaritan. And my husband brought up a point that I hadn't considered before: what if the Samaritan was just the kind of person who was prepared to handle situations like the beaten up man on the road? What if it wasn't just about his compassion and mercy, but that he was emotionally, physically, financially equipped to help?

It got me thinking about Pastor's Steve's message two weeks ago about training for a marathon. You can't just go out and think you're going to win the race, or even make it to the finish line. You've got to prepare. And in doing that, you have to take it a step at a time. You aren't going to go out and run 26 miles your first day of training. In the same way, we can't solve the world's problems, much less "save" an entire nation (like Haiti or Indonesia).

Mother Teresa's words resonate in my heart this morning:

"I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one. As Jesus said, 'Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.' So you begin ... I begin. I picked up one person ... The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less ...

"At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread but for love ... naked not only for clothing but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of bricks, but homeless because of rejection."

I want to be known as someone who loves people well because of my love for God. Whether that means patience with clingy and needy people, a kind heart towards a neglectful landlord, grace towards my parents, or generosity to those who lived in wretched poverty overseas. Some of those things come much easier than others. It is easier for me to go without something for a month to have enough to put together a few Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes than to give our landlord the benefit of doubt about his motives. But it's all part of loving God's people, and I'm going to try to be more intentional with His help.

One at a time.


  1. I like your thoughts! And the idea that the Good Samaritan was prepared for those situations. :)

  2. I love your ponderings...and you're right; it's easier for me to give to the "least of these" than be gracious and understanding when it comes to emotionally needy people! So often, I just want to shake them and say, "Get a grip, people! You could be dying of malaria...or abducted by a militia..." Ahh, but to a have patient and loving response...