The Gift of Presence

March 16, 2023 | Chad Vinson

I was intrigued when I heard we were going to start the year-long Read with Me initiative as a church. One of the reasons this caught my attention is it has been some time since I have read through the Bible chronologically.

Recently, the plan has us making our way through the book of Job. As you recall, Job is experiencing a season of suffering and heartbreaking loss. Job’s friends hear what is happening to him and they come to be with him. The book of Job allows us to eavesdrop on the conversation between Job and his friends.

You must give Job’s friends credit: they show up. Unfortunately, their gift of presence is canceled out by their words. At one point in the book, Job says to his friends, “Miserable comforts are you all.” This made me reflect on the gift of presence. I don’t believe it is a coincidence, that shortly after this reading, these two separate events happened…

The other morning, I was getting out of my car in a parking lot about to walk into a building to share with a group of men. Suddenly, I heard someone say, “Good morning, Mr. Vinson.” My first thought was, "No one calls me, Mr. Vinson!" As I turned to face where the voice was coming from, I did recognize the gentleman. He handed me a white envelope with my name on it, and then proceeded to share how he felt led to give this to me. Of course, I was running late for my meeting, so I tossed the envelop into my car and told him thank you very much. Once I returned to my car, I opened the envelope. This gentleman had typed a one-page long letter and placed a cash gift inside. The gist of the letter read, “Never forget that God sees you!”

Then a couple days later, I was sitting in my office and there was a knock on the door. It was one of the other staff members. The individual said, “Hi Chad, I was reading last night, and the Lord brought you to mind. I know we do things here at the church that no one sees but I wanted you to know that God sees you! I told this individual thank you very much for the kind words and timely reminder. As the person left my office, I simply shook my head! I thought to myself, "Ok God, I am beginning to understand the gift of presence is taking the time to see the people around us as You see them!"

I thought God might be done teaching me about the gift of presence, but oh how I was mistaken because now he wanted me to apply it to those I care the most about: my family.

My wife and I were driving to a soccer game. As we pulled into the parking lot, our youngest came running to the car in full panic mode. "Dad, I lost the car keys!" Back story—for that particular car we only have one set! In the past, I have not handled these situations very well. I go into fix and lecture mode on cue. So my wife looked at me. I took a deep breath remembering the gift of presence. My son was outside the car pacing and frustrated with himself because he couldn’t reminder where he left them. This is the same son who is like his dad, harder on himself than anyone else could ever be. I stepped out of the car and said, “I am with you! Let’s walk together and retrace your steps.” He began to calm down as we walked.

As I ponder the gift of presence, I confess I am more like Job’s friends than I want to admit. I think it is all up to me to fix a person, problem, or predicament, and I miss what is directly in front of me: the person. Presence is a gift! I confess often I miss this gift. The phrase which came to mind, and is often repeated in the Bible is, “God is with us.” God takes the time to see us. I am grateful for the book of Job, the gentleman with the note, and for the staff member reminding me the gift of presence is taking time to see people as God sees them.

Walking beside my son that night looking for car keys I had the realization—it’s not about the car keys! It’s about the gift of presence and reminding my son I see him as God sees him!

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, we found the keys! But that night, I discovered a better gift.