In, out. In, out.
I wiped away tears with the back of my cardigan sleeve and held back my sniffles. I glanced over to my right, where the lady in the middle seat of the airplane row peered down at her book, politely pretending she didn't notice the woman in the window seat had become an absolute mess.
I looked down at the pages of the book again, and then up at the seat back in front of me, and then back down at the book. I stared at the page until the words appeared blurry from tears. I read and reread it:
"As humans, each of us just as lacking as the next, I think the most powerful thing we can do for another person is not to try to fix his or her pain or make it go away, but to acknowledge it. I cannot heal. I cannot perform miracles. Even for all my trying I cannot make sure that someone will receive salvation from Jesus. But I can be a witness.
These words transported me back to a hospital on the other side of the world, where three summer ago I met Cambodian patients and a searing sense of helplessness as I watched suffering and active dying. I remembered how these experiences had opened my eyes to the Lord's precious, comforting and healing presence.
"I see you. I am with you. I will not turn away."
This is what Jesus had done for me and for the patients, and this was enough. It was enough to fill me to overflowing and to bring tears of relief to my eyes.
But Katie wasn't talking about Jesus in this paragraph. She was talking about humans. She was talking about us.
Something magical happened in my heart in that window seat on the plane that day. For the first time, I was able to believe that perhaps my presence was a gift, too. Perhaps my presence was a valid contribution; perhaps my presence meant something and made a difference.
Could it be that my presence was enough? For most of my life, I found my identity in being a caretaker. A caretaker, I learned, fixes problems and meets needs and gains a sense of identity from it. In contrast, caregivers act from an overflow, with an identity rooted deeply in confidence, humility, and unconditional love for self and others. Caregivers give care without needing anything in return—no recognition or contribution to a sense of identity.
I mulled over these thoughts, and I wondered. In that rural Cambodian hospital, I had believed I had nothing to offer; I had no magician's hat or Mary Poppins purse from which to pull antibiotics or an MRI machine. Yet here, in the pages of Katie Majors' book, I discovered perhaps I had given an offering of the utmost importance to those beloved patients. I had given my presence.
It had nearly killed me on the inside to show up day after day to Kratie Referral Hospital, but show up I did. I could not offer resources or cures. I watched when it pained me, when I wanted to run from the building crying and screaming. I offered up prayers as I passed by beds with children with malaria and mothers, brothers, and sons in a coma. I stood beside an infant in a crib, alone in an empty room. I watched her tiny toes wiggle and adjusted the pulse oximeter and served as a witness to her condition. No more, no less. A witness.
For all these years, I thought I had given nothing. But what if I had given everything? What if my presence was the ultimate gift I could give, and what if this gift made a difference?
In that that airplane window seat, I let the tears stream down my face. I knew I was not having a breakdown but a breakthrough.
As an introvert, I already know that my presence at a party or event is usually the only gift I can muster. Perhaps though, presence is also the gift of highest value we have to offer, anytime and anywhere. To show up, to engage, to be present and to be a witness. Perhaps this is not only of great value in situations where we have nothing else to offer, but perhaps it is the greatest gift at all times. Perhaps it is more valuable than our entire bank accounts or the most thoughtful gifts or the ability to fix everyone's problems and bring physical healing.
Perhaps the worth of our presence outweighs all these things and more, for we are made in the image of God.
When I first learned I would have the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for Katie Majors' new book, Daring to Hope, I thought I'd be inspired and maybe humbled—and I did find these things in her book, but I also found much more. In an unexpected move, the Holy Spirit showed up in the pages and brought healing and revelation. He brought me to tears and whispered I had not failed in that hospital all those months ago. I had offered all I had, and what I offered was enough. His presence is enough for me, and at times my presence alone is enough for others. He will take care of the rest.
Katie's book comes out on October 3, 2017, and I highly recommend it!! You can preorder it here. Katie has a way of weaving vulnerable, honest stories with Scripture in a unique way that opens the door for the Lord to show up and speak to each reader in a personal way. In other words, her writing invites us into His presence, the greatest place to be.
Special thanks to Waterbrook & Multnomah and Katie Majors for welcoming me onto their launch team. For full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of Daring to Hope, and the Amazon links to the book are affiliate links, which means I might get a small commission if you purchase using the link (which will probably go to pay for the official copy of Daring to Hope I just preordered!). Let me know if you end up reading the book; I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!