The mystery of being present

As I ponder, caught between two cultures, I struggle to untangle what can possibly be shifted when violence seems to be in control! How do mind sets get softened? How does life become a vision of gentleness and grace?

I keep meeting a people shaped by pain in a way I can’t comprehend! So many have experienced hurtful abuse at the hand of fathers. I can’t imagine being suspended with your hands tied together over your head while a father whips you as you hang helpless and in pain!! How does that warp your perception of love and discipline?? I can’t begin to fathom!!

When your experience is not solitary but also shared by others (and in multiple forms and variations)- though obviously not everyone in a culture will experience this- but enough to not make what you have gone through unusual but relatively “normal”, how do you deal with such deep broken trust? It sure makes it much easier to understand why police and armies view harshness as a reasonable extension of justice – when you don’t even have a family relationship with someone who has not obeyed the law!!

The majority of people here have also had family members murdered in bloody and ruthless fashion. I can’t begin to comprehend how that affects how you see and understand the protection of a “good God”. When a gangster,  for no apparent reason, has senselessly turned and shot your mother innocently sitting on the doorstep watching the street, how do you process the shock and sorrow? When you can not turn to law enforcement and expect resolutions for the violent acts of others, when you are afraid to take issue with those you know are responsible, how does that not increase your own self reproach? To lie silent in fear when injustice walks before you unscathed -is clearly a difficult reality to comprehend. I have not passed through anything that would begin to approximate any of this!!

Yet, I am present. So I seek to somehow, speak wholeness when brokenness seems to reign unchallenged.I speak hope that I see takes on tangible form in people’s hearts -even though I personally can’t envision it.

I am continually having to recognize my own limitations – those powerful moments of truth!

I can’t ever offer solutions to pain and horror, I can’t fix others.

I can sit with people and listen to their pain. I can sit at someone’s level and look deeply into their eyes and be present with them. I can give of my time. I can share that I have a confidence in what I see in them that is greater than their own accusations. I can share myself. I have nothing else really at the end to offer.

The wonder for me, is that in offering myself, in transparency and grace, somehow a bridge is formed and precious people somehow also taste of a connection to the Spirit of God and a redemption that is beyond me. I become a window, a “thin place” where their reality gets impacted by a much greater reality that is ever present, very gentle and so capable of unravelling knots, scars and horrors. A being who is loved personified steps across time and gently brings a kiss to someone who no longer hopes for anything but to endure another day. I see hope actually take form! I see peace settle into pain driven eyes! I see the crease of a smile, the acknowledgement of something unexpected bubbling up inside!

One life, touched seems so tiny. One moment in one life, does not shift a culture. One moment does not undo history. However,one life is all I can manage to affect, my reach is rather short! So I walk, as each of you do, with the challenge of looking at the one in front of me, of looking into their eyes and doing something, some small gesture that says “you are not alone”. To matter to someone else is a powerful message. We become real to each other and confer the honour of being with them – if but for moment! Such is this journey!

Author – Bill Tidsbury

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