Monday, October 22, 2012


A suffering Star on the cover of People Magazine can draw me in at the checkout aisle, but the story of Job in the Old Testament has not tempted me until today when I heard the ending. I knew Job suffered, but somehow I missed that in the end, Job was humbled that God became visible to rebuke him and that this humble response resulted in the restoration of his fortunes. Why was seeing God enough for Job?

Some of the harder moments of my nursing career were being with patients at the end of their life. Some people seemed to want to die alone as if they waited for the visitors to leave and so they let go on the night shift. Some seemed like they were lonely and in need of visitors, hanging on longer than expected as if something might change. Maybe I imagined it, but in some cases I felt people needed someone to be present with them even as they were leaving the world behind. I would go home confused, unable to articulate this thought, but feeling it almost pulsing in the air around a patient lying in the twilight of the pumps, machines, and gizmos of the modern hospital setting. They wanted someone to sit at their bedside, maybe hold their hand, but mainly just be with them, as if they mattered to someone for a moment longer.

I'm not a nurse anymore, but what I experienced while I was a nurse has stayed with me. It wasn't about suffering, but it was about the need for presence. This sort of means bearing witness, it sort of means connecting to each other, and it sort of means holding a space open. The need for presence goes on unabated.

Children demand it of us. "Look at me!" When we are searching for a mate, we might wear provocative clothes or bright colors to call attention to ourselves. In middle age, it's the sports car, the shiny ring, or the plastic surgery that renews our image and our quest for visibility. A penchant for being witty, knowledgable, or helpful, might be developed to keep the input of presence incoming. No matter our age, our ability, or our success, presence is vital to our being.

Sometimes we need to know that we are visible. Sometimes being visible is humbling. Sometimes we are known and it is all we need. I like when I can be with someone and it is enough-- maybe we talk, maybe we don't, but we are both there and fully present.

My take on Job is that he was happy to have God show up. Showing up, being present, it sounds like a little thing, but it means a lot when you are out there in the dark. Sure, God showed up to give him an earful, a comeuppance or so it sounded as it went for four chapters I hear. I don't presume to get God, but I do get that when people show up in my life that it is as if a beacon is lighting a way. It is hard to feel forsaken when you are flooded with light.