The small gathering we attend on Sunday mornings offers a sharing time at the end of the service, a time for offering reflections on the sermon, for introducing guests, for requesting prayer or reporting praise. Most churches do not include such a thing in their regular meetings; this may be due to time constraints or the size of the congregation, but I suspect it may also be a form of protection. People are unpredictable; you never know what they might say.
We had a number of visitors among us yesterday; the executive director of the ministry retired at the end of January and people came from far and wide to celebrate his thirty-six years (thirty-six years!) of faithful service. During sharing time, each was asked to stand and share a bit about themselves and their relationship to this place, to tell us what brought them here. There were those who were younger, with recent ties, faces I recognized, and there were those that were, well, older.
This man certainly fell in that latter category; the date he gave for when he and his wife had been a part of the ministry was just one year after I was born. He didn’t share much, but what he did say stuck with me:
“We wasn’t staff, and we wasn’t interns. We was just here. And that’s it.”
He sat back down to smiles and titters, but the executive director was quick to stand, to proclaim with laughter in his voice: “No. That’s not it.”
He went on to list accomplishments and achievements, ways that this couple had blessed the ministry, things that had happened nearly thirty years ago but are still remembered by those who were here at the time. Their presence here had made a difference. Their time had mattered.
And I wonder how often I make the same mistake of devaluing what I have to offer, how often I think I must be doing something more, must be contributing in some bigger way for my life to count, for my time to make a difference. I wonder how often I confuse doing and being, how often I place priority on action over presence. In this season, especially, one of slow days with an infant, one where Jonathan comes home from work and I cannot for the life of me put into words how I spent the past ten hours, it is easy to berate myself for not accomplishing, for not completing, for not doing. It is easy to add that little word – “just” – and in so doing, dismiss the importance of being present, really present.