The Spirituality of Showing Up

Stone stepsThere are lots of quotes about the importance of showing up in life, in relationships, or in business.  But do we ever consider it in the context of spirituality?  I think it’s a worthwhile vantage point, and it’s something I’ve been working on myself.

Especially here in Silicon Valley, there’s an ethos of hurrying up, of being time efficient, of getting things done.  Showing up – and therefore spending time – is in many ways opposed to that fast pace of life that we have.

Spirituality refers to our relationship with God, most often experienced through one another, both those close to us and those not so close (sometimes even strangers). As with any relationship, time & effort are needed to nurture and grow spiritually. This can happen in terms of prayer, but also through action.  Ideally, of course, Christian spirituality should include both time spent in prayer and time given to good work or deeds.  (One spirituality writer notes that if our spiritual life is balanced, we should all crave time spent in prayer – a concept I understand, because we can all crave a good relationship with those whom we love,  but suspect is not often experienced among the faithful.)

The balance between action & contemplation, or good deeds and prayer, is a much bigger topic than this blog can tackle, but let’s focus on action and specifically acts of “showing up”.

Showing up doesn’t have to be enormous.  It doesn’t require weeklong service projects abroad.  Those are fabulous ideas, and efforts, but what I’m suggesting is something more bite-sized.  Here are a few ideas.

Funerals: Attend funerals, not just of your loved ones, but the funerals where those you love are mourning.  Did your friend or neighbor just lose a parent, sibling, or best friend?  Show up as support for your friend, even if you never met her deceased loved one. Attending will signal your support, and that you were willing to spend the time for her. Funerals are hard, they often rip open our own old wounds, so many people avoid them. Go anyway, even if it’s difficult for you.  (And continue to be present long after the services are over, too.) Not only will you be supporting your friend, neighbor or co-worker, but your attendance will signal everyone else who’s mourning that they do not do so alone.  How different it is to attend a packed funeral versus an empty one! Showing up speaks volumes, and on many levels.

Sickness: Call, email, visit – whatever is appropriate or possible, but don’t shy away.  Many people are afraid of sickness, and especially hospitals.  “I can’t deal with it!” I have heard so often. Push yourself.  It can be challenging, taxing, and exhausting to accompany another in the scary times of disease or death.  But it is a sacred journey to take with them, if they will allow it and if you can rise to the occasion.  Sickness and loneliness often go hand-in-hand.  See if you can’t get between them a little.

Job loss, breakups, and other trauma: All kinds of things can cause formerly good friends and even relatives to scurry away. For some, it’s a case of “a friend in need is a friend to avoid”.  If you can continue to show up in their lives, whatever the trauma be, it can be enormously helpful to those who are struggling.

Finally, and more generally, look for the need. Often we ask those who are hurting, “what can I do to help?”  They may feel uncomfortable asking for help.  They may not even know what help they need.  If it’s a death, perhaps the need is for food at the house. Or picking up someone from the airport.  Or housing someone for a couple of nights. If you can put yourself in their position, try to imagine what the need might be, and specifically offer that help.  Or perhaps they may just want someone to walk and talk with. Offer it.

If we look around, and really pay attention, we can see people choosing to spend at least some of their time caring for others by checking in on those going through a rough patch and those who are sick, separated, or in other need.  They do it by bringing food over, attending funerals, wakes, or other events to provide caring support. It’s stuff your mom or dad may have taught you.  In many ways, it’s very ordinary, isn’t it?

“Being there” for others is no small bit of spirituality, even if it does seem quite ordinary. We see it in the Gospels, too, as many women stayed and kept vigil with Jesus as he was dying on the cross.  Theirs was a heartbreakingly sorrowful gift of presence, which did come at a tremendous cost to each of them but no doubt was a comfort to Jesus.  These women faced horror but did not budge.  They are a model for all of us to emulate.

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