Ministry of Presence

“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.

There was a pause.

“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.

“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”

“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.

“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.

“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.

“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”

And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Sorry, give me a second. I need to wipe these tears away before I keep typing.

In this scene, beautifully brought to life by A.A. Milne, we see a wonderfully simple picture of the ministry of presence. The idea that sometimes you don’t have to fix or provide any solutions whatsoever. Sometimes you can just sit and be present and that is the most loving thing you can do.

I get caught up in the opposite most of the time. Whenever someone I love is going through something hard, everything in my pragmatic brain wants to spit out every piece of advice I have and just solve their issue for them.

But this is not always the best method to love the people around you. Sometimes I need to be more like Piglet.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, he talks about this idea of bearing (pun intended) one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). This is in the context of discussing how to restore people to Christ who have been “caught in transgression.” But I believe it also applies in how we care for the people in front of us.

Piglet bears the burdens of his best friend, Pooh who has revealed to him that today has been a not-so-good-day. Piglet now has a choice on what to do next. He can either move towards Pooh in his Difficult Day, or he can withdrawl.

Because he loves him, Piglet chooses to engage in what could be a not-so-fun experience of sharing in Pooh’s daily burdens.

But when Pooh says he does not want to talk about it, Piglet is faced with another choice to move toward or away from him. Pooh obviously doesn’t want to talk. He just wants to sit in his Difficult Day.

“‘That’s okay,’ said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.” 

And here, sisters and brothers, we see Ministry of Presence, in praxis. When it comes down to it, at the moment that matters your active presence in someone’s brokenness will speak louder than any words you say.


And now a quick sidebar.

Truth is really important. Grace must ALWAYS be tempered with Truth, and Truth must ALWAYS be tempered with Grace. But before you can speak truth to someone you have to earn the right to be heard. You have to build trust. And that happens in small moments like we see between Piglet and Pooh.

Truth is what will change people’s lives and that Truth can be really hard to hear sometimes. Which is why you must show up time and time again to earn the right to be heard by the people you love.

If someone knows you deeply love and care for them then Truth will be much easier to hear than if you yell Bible verses at them from across the proverbial street.


 “I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.”

Piglet

Imagine if Piglet hadn’t known what Difficult Days were like. What if Piglet had never taken a moment to sit in his own Difficult Days and realized that sometimes it’s better not to talk about them?

He might have forced Pooh to talk when he didn’t want (or need) too. He may have tried to fix his friend by offering advice or truth at the wrong moment.

But Piglet doesn’t do this, because Piglet has gone through a few Difficult Days of his own. Drawing close to the difficult parts of our own stories is part of loving the people around us.

I have experienced so much transformation ever since beginning my journey with counseling. It started as a desire to be an “emotionally healthy leader” (whatever that is) and has turned into a place where I can look squarely into the face of my brokenness and see the face of Jesus reflected in it.

You have to experience your Difficult Days before you can sit in other peoples’ Difficult Days. 

You need to bear your own burdens to the Lord before you are strong enough to help bear someone else’s.

“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”

Piglet

Or to say it another, much older way, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

That’s what Jesus did for us. He came down to suffer, die, get wet, eat, drink, laugh, scrape his knees, bust his toe and experience tactile humanity so that we. can. know. He is redeeming it all. We can approach the Cosmic Throne of Grace because seated on it we see a Person who walked among us.

We get to bear each other’s burdens because Christ did that for us.

We can sit in people’s brokenness because that’s what Christ did for us.

We get to love people through their process because that’s what Christ did for us.

We get to hold people while they cry because that’s what Christ does for us.

“And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.”

So how do we love people? That’s the big question. How do we minister to people well?

We sit with them.

We don’t leave.

We show up.

We ask how they are doing and don’t expect a “Good, you?”

We earn the right to be heard in the lives of the people in front of us by loving them enough to sit beside them on their Difficult Days, swinging our little legs.


A returning writer, Benjamin Lawrence Walker is senior from Snellville, Georgia. He lives with Kenny Morgan and in his free time enjoys photography & coffee. As he is writing this, he realizes how basic it sounds, but also realizes he cannot do any better. One of his greatest passions is listening to people on their Difficult Days, and he would love to do that for you.

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