I used to think I had to “do” the right things if I wanted to keep relationships. And whenever I loved people, it was always clouded over by the fear that it wasn’t enough.
A few years ago, I realized I couldn’t keep up with it all. Maybe it’s because I loved so many people in so many places. Or maybe it’s that life got so full, I didn’t have the space or time to attend every event, to remember every birthday, to make phone calls to those I loved. I guess since I wanted to be wholehearted in every relationship — and I knew I couldn’t — I just sort of gave up.
In the silence of that season, I feared the worst. For me, I always worry that people will think I don’t care, when I care so very, very much. And I worried that the things I couldn’t give were the very things that kept those people in my life.
Yet, strangely enough, nothing really changed. In fact, I think most people didn’t even notice that I was “giving less.” And when all was said and done, I didn’t feel less loved. I felt more loved. I felt loved enough to just be.
I realized that, sure, people may love the gifts I give, or the things my personality can offer, but most of all…people who love me, love my presence. Somehow, just knowing that someone you love is present in your life, is enough.
So as I write this, with so many goodbyes fresh on my heart, I know what I miss most. I miss knowing those faraway people are there. I miss knowing I could see them or call them in any moment. I miss their presence in my life. But with that, I have to say, I know what I love most too right now. I love that I can just say my brother’s name, and he’ll hear me from the other room. I love that I can fall asleep to the murmur of voices or late-night TV shows, little reminders that my family is here and so am I.
When I think about the power of presence, it gives me chills to remember what God has to say about all of that. How He tells us that even in the heavens, and even in the depths, even in the darkness or across the farthest seas, He’s there. How it’s His presence that gives us the fullest joy, and how just being, just resting in His presence is better than a thousand days anywhere else.
And just like with all those we love, there is no greater gift He could give, no sweeter thing, than to offer us His presence, forever and always.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. [Psalm 139:7-10]