This past weekend, I was reminded in a very vivid way to never underestimate the power of my presence. If you are prone (like me) to underestimate the power of your presence, I hope this story offers you an encouraging reminder. You’ve heard it said that ‘99% of life is just showing up’ and ‘people don’t care what you know until they know you care.’
Especially when you see a man go into labor.
Well, sort of. Krista, the kids and I had just returned home on Sunday from a summer family reunion. We were only home for an hour when one of my best friend’s sons came to the door and said, “Mr. O’Connor, my dad is lying on the bathroom floor.” Read on…
When I ran down the street and upstairs into my friend’s home, sure enough, my buddy Mark Perez was laying on his back and holding his side. Radiating from his left side, the pain had been coming on for an hour and a half. Mark told me the white-hot flashes of pain were becoming more regular and increasing in intensity. I asked him a few questions about what he had recently eaten or how he had been feeling earlier in the day, but Mark said he’d felt fine.
“What about your trip to Ecuador?”
Mark and his family had recently returned from a missions trip from the jungles of South America. You never know what kind of microscopic alien life form you’re going to pick up in a foreign country. I’ve seen the Discovery Channel’s Monster’s Inside Me and wanted to rule out razor-teethed, foot-long intestinal worms, brain-eating parasites, and anything else Mark might cough up to attack me. A quick scan of the bathroom and my only weapons were a toilet plunger and a bottle of Drano.
We also ruled out the obvious: In the past nine months, there had been no positive pregnancy tests or baby showers. At least none I’d been invited to.
In the extremely unlikelihood that Mark was about to have a baby, at least he would be giving birth to something living. A little bundle of joy to brighten the whole family.
No way Jose.
Mark confirmed my suspicions, “It’s probably kidney stones.”
In the first few minutes driving to the hospital, I wasn’t worried about the condition of my car’s interior. Toyota trucks are built to last. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
Remember the chest-burster scene from the first Alien movie when the baby alien explodes out of John Hurt’s chest?
When Mark hit Defcom 5 on the pain Richter scale, my brain went to one of two places: Alien or National Enquirer headlines: Man Gives Birth to Mongoose Baby.
Poor Mark was in that much pain. Writhing in the car seat and pounding the side of the door with his fist, he was inconsolable. I prayed and he cussed. That tiny barbed bomb of kidney stone crawled through him as if it was dragging him over a bed of broken glass.
Though I’ve been at the birth of each of my four children, I’ve never been to the birth of a kidney stone. I encouraged Mark to breathe… deep breaths… breathe, but I don’t think he appreciated my mini-Lamaze class.
Though Mark is a very good friend, I don’t write this to jab humor at his expense. I am, however, contacting my lawyer AND calling my auto insurance to file a claim against damages to my truck’s interior.
We finally arrived at Mission Hospital’s emergency room and scooted Mark inside, where he was promptly pumped with three narcotics…ahh!
Then came the nausea.
For the next few hours, we dealt with all manner of bodily fluids, but I will spare you the gross details. How I later ate a bowl of granola and a banana in the hospital cafeteria, I don’t know?
Mark’s wife, Debbie, and daughter Mary, arrived later that evening from Mary’s soccer tournament. Mark was now in La-La Land, so I said my goodbyes and took Mary home.
Two days later: Mark was still in the hospital this morning and finally released this afternoon. The x-rays revealed the kidney stone was a preemie, only 2mm wide, so no car seat was needed.
That kidney stone is still present and hopefully will soon be gone, but I want to remind you about the power of your presence.
One of my favorite quotes from Henri Nouwen, a favorite spiritual writer of mine, is simply this:
Never underestimate the power of your presence.
When a problem or crisis hits, you don’t need the right words. The right answers. The right solutions, though sometimes those are needed in emergencies.
What matters most is your presence. Being open to God interrupting your agenda for the day.
Your faith may not move mountains… or kidney stones. You may speak in the tongues of angels or demon-like curses. And even if you sacrifice your body to be burned or your truck to be beat to smithereens, it’s your presence that counts.
Just showing up. Being present. That what matters most.
Because the greatest present you can give to someone is the gift of your presence.
Even when there’s no emergency. Just you being present in the day to day realities of life.
Being present is a very concrete way for you to practice the presence of God for yourself and others.
Being there… all there… awake and alive to those around you is a tremendous gift.
Faith, hope and love all bound up in your presence.
Never underestimate the power of your presence.
Questions: Share a story when you were reminded of the power of your presence. Who has been a powerful, positive presence in your life?
I’d love your comments and feedback.
You’ve just finished reading Never Underestimate the Power of Your Presence. Click here to comment now on Art, Life & Faith.
If you want to read more about the power of presence, read Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved. It’s one of my favorites! Your purchase helps support the Art, Life & Faith blog.