I’d been invited to a new friend’s house for coffee, and for days ahead of time, I agonized over whether I should bring something with me. Pastries? Flowers? I’m always appreciative of someone willingly opening their house to me, and she was providing coffee. I wanted to offer her a gift as well, some token of thanks, but when the day came, I had nothing in my hands.
I’d convinced myself that it was okay because I was bringing something else.
That doesn’t always feel like enough.
My new friend is a mom of a young baby and we had met doing volunteer work for a refugee organization and though my children are school-aged, I remembered how I felt as a working-professional-turned-stay-at-home-mom. All I wanted was company. It could have been anyone, and they didn’t even have to bring anything. I just needed a grown-up present so I didn’t go out of my mind. I have no idea if my new friend felt this way, but I brought with me what I had: grown-up conversation and presence.
Two days earlier, our family attended a vigil downtown to show our support for refugees in our community. That day, I stopped at the dollar store for candles, poster board and tape. I’d never been to any kind of protest or vigil before but I didn’t want to show up empty-handed. The kids and I made signs and held our battery-operated LED candles as we stood toward the back of a growing crowd.
A mom and daughter settled in next to us. Someone handed the little girl an unlit wax candle, which her mother told her more than once they were not going to light. The girl saw my kids’ posters and complained, “I don’t have a sign.”
“No, but you have a body,” her mother said. “And sometimes a body is all you need.”
I offered the girl my LED candle, and she traded me for her unlit wax one. I was having enough trouble holding a sign and a candle of any kind, so I was grateful for the trade.
The words of the mother have stuck with me, though.
At a vigil, a protest, a demonstration (call it whatever you want), the only thing that matters is head count. No one is counting signs or candles or measuring decibels of sound. Everyone wants to know how many people are there. How many people showed up? How many people care about this cause?
You don’t have to bring a sign, but you do have to show up.
Once a week, I sit in a classroom with newly arrived refugees. I don’t speak any languages fluently other than English. Most of them don’t speak English with confidence. I don’t teach the class. When people ask me what I do there, I tell them, “I don’t have any special skills, but I show up and do whatever I can.” The teachers themselves express how grateful they are for my presence, even though I feel so inadequate.
I show up. I smile. I try to communicate. I become a friend. And on the weeks when we walk the two blocks from the church to the market, I bring my body. Safety in numbers and all that, though I am the least fierce person I know.
Bring a body.
It sounds like a line from a crime novel or television series.
But it’s the one thing we all have that we can give, whether it’s to a cause like a demonstration or to a lonely friend or a grieving family member. And it’s enough.
I need that to sink in for me so I’ll say it again: When you show up in body for someone, your presence is gift enough.
I need to hear this over and over again because I don’t always recognize my value to other people. I constantly think that in any given relationship, I am more taker than giver. That the other person is of more value to me than I am to them. Thankfully, I have friends who continually remind me that this is not the case.
Consider this recent text from a friend I met after we moved to Pennsylvania from Illinois:
Maybe God sent Phil to seminary so those of us needing your friendship would find you.
I can hardly explain how meaningful those words are to me. For someone who thinks she needs her friends more than her friends need her, this is the kind of text I want to print and frame.
So, what does any of this have to do with you?
Maybe the world is a little bit scary right now. No matter your political persuasion, the world is noisy and volatile and maybe the news seems like it’s all bad. It might be the world outside your house or the world on your computer, but if you’re like me at all, it makes you just want to hide inside your house or hibernate for a few years.
I completely understand this.
But I’m here to encourage you in the opposite direction.
When the world is scary and overwhelming, that might be the time when the world needs us most.
If we are Christ-followers, the world needs us to bring our bodies to the places Christ would go. The world needs us present to bring the presence of Christ with us, even if they don’t know that’s what they need. We as Christ-followers carry with us the presence and power of God, not to bully or intimidate but to speak truth, enact justice, and bring peace.
And the best part is that we don’t need any special skills. Peter writes in his second letter that we already have everything we need to live a godly life, given to us through God’s divine power. If we have the Spirit of God in us, all we have to do is bring a body.
How would the world (our little world of influence or the big wide world) change if we brought our bodies, full of Jesus, to the hardest places to go? (And sometimes the hardest place to go is just outside the house, or outside your comfortable circle of friends. It doesn’t have to be a war zone.)
And what would change in us if we realized that what we have inside of us is enough to make a difference? To realize that we don’t have to have special skills or training, an extraordinary amount of courage, or an adventurous spirit to show up, be present and change the atmosphere around us?
Bring your body. It’s enough. You’re enough.