My first question was honest enough: "And you want me there?!"
I couldn't see my presence adding anything other than fuel to the fire. But I didn't have time to weigh the repercussions. It was a God moment. Before I knew I was going to do it, I was turning my car around to head for my friend's house. I was driving directly into an explosion, and it was going to be ugly, and I had no idea why my friend had called me—of all people on earth, why me?—but my friend asked me to be there, and so I went.
It was ugly. There was an explosion. I didn't say a word. I stood there. It was awful. And I knew if I hadn't been standing there, it would have been so much worse.
After the dust cleared, after the police statements were made, I sat with my friend for hours, looking at the prospect of trying to put a life back together. And my friend said, "If you hadn't been standing there, it would have been so much worse."
I didn't do anything. I didn't say anything. Physical presence was the only thing I had to add to my friend's life at the moment. Showing up and letting myself be seen in that moment was one of the most dreadful, most meaningful moves I've ever made. I felt terribly inadequate, horribly exposed, completely out of place, awkward and intrusive beyond compare, and 100% thankful I was there for my friend. Being there was enough.
Job had lost everything. He was in complete emotional turmoil. He was so devastated, he couldn't move or speak for seven days. And Job's four friends showed up and sat with him. They sat with him for seven days and seven nights, letting him take the time he needed to process the waves of tragedy before he spoke. They didn't do anything. They didn't say anything. In the face of suffering so great as Job's, their physical presence was the only thing they had to add to his life.
I have to wonder about some of the self-talk that must have been going through the heads of Job's four friends for those seven days and seven nights. They must have had better things they could have been doing. They must have wondered, "What good am I doing here?" They probably wondered if Job even wanted them there. They must have felt terribly inadequate and horribly out of place. I gotta tell ya, after the first day of no response, I'd sure be wondering if my time might be better spent somewhere else.
But they sat there with him for seven days and seven nights. And when Job was ready to start talking, they were there to talk to. Until then, these men were not called upon to speak or respond. Being there was enough.
Yes, it's a silly way to highlight a serious issue. And it's also a really effective way to get a community talking about a topic no one wants to touch with a ten-foot pole.
While working to raise awareness for the event, I heard a lot of crappy comments from a lot of guys, mostly geared toward the presumed masculinity of other men involved. But I let the boys be boys. I sat there with a smile and didn't say anything, because I don't have to say everything I know, and I know they didn't know who they were talking to.
It's a statistical certainty that we each know someone affected by sexual violence, whether or not we know it. As one of those statistics myself (whether or not many people know that), I rolled my eyes at the comments made by my male coworkers, and I felt deeply, acutely, indescribably honored by the pastors, husbands, fathers, and sons of my church who showed up to participate in this particular event.
I was honored by these men of God who were willing to step way out of their personal comfort zones to do something they wouldn't be caught dead doing under any other circumstances.
It was pretty awful for them. It was awkward and uncomfortable and physically painful for some. Several admitted, "That actually really sucked."
But unlike many of the guys at work who were too "macho" to be involved in something so "stupid," these men showed up to walk for mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends. Some showed up to walk in support of those affected in general, without knowing any specific names or stories. Without knowing it, they showed up to walk for me.
It wasn't about watching a bunch of guys stumble around in high heels. It was about men showing up and letting themselves be seen on behalf of many who still carry a part of themselves in secret and in shame. It was about men courageous enough to pocket their egos, step into their vulnerability with both feet, and make their presence known. They had no way of knowing who would be in the crowd that day or who would see them walk in that event. They might never know what their presence meant. These men were not called upon to speak or respond. Their presence said it all. Being there was enough.
Practically speaking, during His life and ministry on earth, the presence of Jesus among His disciples made Him vulnerable to every possible form of harm, humiliation, and hatred at the hands of fellow human beings. And get this: He knew that going in. God knew that to be present with His creation meant to suffer horribly at the hands of His creation. And guess what? God stepped into the vulnerability of presence.
It wasn't all peaches and cream for Him, either. There were days when Jesus looked at His disciples and said, "How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" (Mark 9:19) Jesus probably had better things to do, being ruler over heaven and earth and all. But He accepted the value of His presence in the midst of our conflict. He didn't question whether or not we wanted Him here. He showed up and let Himself be seen. He turned the car around and drove right into the explosion. He disgraced Himself to bear with us in our transgressions, to show us how we can bear with one another. He suffered our presence to make His presence known.
And to think there are days I don't even want to stop at the grocery store because I don't want to deal with other people's drama.
How much do I appreciate the Lord's presence when I'm consumed with my own situations? How often does the Lord sit on the ground with me in my turmoil and wait for me to turn to Him and say something? How many times has the Lord walked with me knowing there will be an explosion, and it will be ugly? How much does the Lord value me to be with me in my mess? How often does His ubiquitous presence speak through the Word to say, "I stand by you"?
We never know who might see us show up. We don't know who's in the crowd, watching us walk for God. And God does not always feel compelled to speak or respond in the midst of conflict. He is present. He is here with me, and I am with Him. In His presence, whatever my turmoil, I can set my heart at rest. Being there is enough.