You Show Up

There are all kinds of phrases Christians use with the ease of swiping an American Express at Target.

Let go and let God.

God never gives us more than we can handle.

God doesn’t make mistakes.

When God closes a door, He opens a window.

I’m pretty sure we can all agree that when we’re sick, or mourning, or worried, those little cliches are about as comforting as a sharp poke to the eye.

But this is what I’ve heard the most in the last few months. And sadly, the phrase that sometimes meant the least is, “I will pray for you.”

I’m all for prayer. By all means, pray for me. Or wish me love. Or good thoughts. I don’t think a person should ever reject positive love and energy from another, in whatever way they choose to believe or send it. Period. Don’t like the pope and think rosary beads are weird? Fair enough. Don’t believe in karma or good energy? Fine. But if someone offers it to you, and it means something to them? And it’s genuine? I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna hug and thank them.

But prayer that comes from someone who genuinely loves you and is involved in your life? Those are the prayers that get you through the dark times.

We humans really, really like to say “I’ll pray for you.” And throw me in the lion’s den with all the rest, cause I’ve said it flippantly too. Sometimes I didn’t really pray at all. Sometimes I just said it because things were awkward and I didn’t know what else to say. And then afterward I went through the drive through at McDonald’s and got involved in my own life crises and never uttered one prayer.

People also like to say “I’ll pray for you” to make themselves feel better. It’s what they’re brought up to do. It’s what makes them a good person right? They go to church and they pray and they check off a box on their list.

And then sometimes we pray for others that they’ll become what we think they should become. We project our religion on them. We pray they’ll see the light and become converted. We don’t pray that they get a better job, or are surrounded with peace in their lives, or any of the other wonderful things we could pray for. We pray that they’ll join a church. And pray just like we do, dress just like we do, sit in a pew just like we do.

“I’ll pray for you.”

It’s a loaded gun.

I’ve heard it a lot these past few months.

But do you know what really counts?

Do you know how you actually make a difference in someone’s life?

It’s not rocket science. It’s super easy.

You show up.

That’s it.

That is a true prayer.

You don’t say it. You don’t give lip service.

You show up.

You don’t even have to speak.

And for most of us, sometimes it’s better when we don’t.

You sit next to them while they cry.

You bring coffee.

You listen to them while they rant.

You unpack boxes in their new house.

You feed them dinner.

You buy them the a giant lime green Buddha as a house warming present.

(I’m looking at you KJC)

These are the things friends have done for me.. and they were the sweetest prayers of all.

Now obviously, not everyone can physically show up. If my sister in China gets really sick, or my sister in Michigan has a job crisis, I can’t exactly bring over some fresh flowers and a chocolate cake (which I would like to submit is the nicest possible thing you can do for another woman). But you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be praying. But I’ll also be calling. Or texting. Or posting ridiculous memes from Pinterest on their Facebook walls to make them smile (like this one, it works every time).

But I will say this. When you send your emails, or texts, or make your phone calls, people can sense sincerity. A short email and then silence? A rushed phone call? A couple of texts over a few weeks and then nothing? If those were the “prayers” I offered my friends and loved ones, they would smell the insincerity and lack of effort like the city dump five miles from my house.

When Angela was dying I noticed something very prevalent in my fellow humans. Someone else’s life crisis makes some of us really uncomfortable. Why? Because deep down we think, “What about me?”

“What about me? What if I got cancer?”

“What about me? What if I lost my job?”

“What about me? What if my marriage ended?”

And I think that’s natural.

Don’t you?

That natural internal introspection?

The unintentional projection?

But it freezes us up. It makes us bail and avoid and take a step back, but not before we say the all important, “I’ll pray for you.” But we said it, right? We said what we thought we were supposed to say so that makes us feel better, right? That means we did the right thing, right?

Nope. It means we dropped the ball. Big time.

Today, right now, I am at peace. No knots in my stomach. No tightness in my chest. No feelings of sadness and inadequacy. I am truly, wonderfully, blessedly happy. I’m not writing this out of a hurting place, or a needing place. I’m doing A-Okay these days. The crisis is passing. The clouds are lifting. Jane and I are doing great. And I am incredibly thankful for the people in my life who actually showed up. Some folks I expected to be there for me in a crisis, and then there were the ones I didn’t expect, the ones who completely blew me away with their thoughtfulness.

But I have recently been through a very hard time, when these were very real experiences for me. And plenty of people need the reminder. Because all the “I’ll pray for you’s” that get casually thrown around? They might be doing more damage than good.

Maybe next time, for me or someone else, instead of saying you’ll pray, or talking about prayer, say your prayer and then do something.

Just. Show. Up.

It’s the most precious prayer you can ever offer.


1 Comment

  1. Bec says:

    I was pretty sure if one more person told me “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” while I was going through my divorce/starting grad school/working full time/etc. I would surely slap them silly. I had quite a few verses I learned to lean on during this time, but I saw the quote “Until God opens the next door, praise him in the hallway” and it has stuck. I still feel like I’m in the hallway a year later, but I’m learning it’s a mighty fine hallway and that door is getting ever so close.


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