A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What It Means to Be Alone Depends Upon Where We Stand

Our daughter Alyssa has been in North Carolina for about a week now. She is a freshman at High Point University. While I am thrilled for this new stage of her life and am excited for her in what she is experiencing and learning, I have missed her terribly this week. It seems so strange to know that she is 450 miles away in another state. It feels rather surreal to walk in her bedroom, still furnished, knowing that she will not be sleeping at home tonight. When we set the dinner table, it is for five instead of six people. I definitely miss her. In some ways the house seems rather empty.

I was speaking with another father today after church. His daughter is a freshman in college as well, and a friend of Alyssa�s. In our conversation, I realized that where my house has seemed rather empty, his house is actually empty. This is his last child to leave the nest and his wife died a year ago. When he comes home, he literally enters an empty house. In those moments of conversation, I realized that my small sense of loneliness was nothing compared to the loneliness he was currently experiencing.

What it means to be alone depends upon where we stand. While it is certainly possible to be alone in a room filled with people, there are many persons who are truly alone all by themselves, who would wish for a room filled with people just to have a human presence.

When I was a young pastor, I did not appreciate the ministry of presence. I can remember in my first church having to visit a man who had a stroke. He could not communicate, he could not move; he could only look at me. I would speak with him informing him of what was happening in the church, I would read Scripture to him, and I would pray with him, but I would always leave feeling as if I had failed him. I did not understand that in his condition, what he probably desired most was simply the presence of another.

In the midst of his great suffering, Job�s friends sat with him for seven days and they did not say a thing. What it means to be alone depends upon where we stand. What it means to be a presence to those who are alone depends upon our desire to be like God who has graced us with his presence in Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...

It's strange, isn't it how just one person leaving out of six empties the house exponentially? One person gone makes the house seem 60% more empty. Weird!
19 years of doing hospice visits has taught me also about the ministry of "being". In the beginning, I felt visiting people in nursing homes and just sitting and holding their hands was of so little use but gradually learned that the human touch - and presence- is so meaningful to people in dire situations. Job's friends were wonderful role models, Marilyn

Allan R. Bevere said...


It is a lesson I wished I had learned earlier in my ministry. The Christian affirmation that God has given us his presence in Jesus Christ is a model for how we are to be with one another. Our ministry should be incarnational. We are to be a suffering presence to those around us.

Ted M. Gossard said...

We have a good time at the nursing home, and I enjoy leading our singing and preaching a message. But I think just as important to them is the personal touch afterwards. And sometimes I think I could sit hours listening to one of them talk. Even those who I know whose minds are not right, need someone to listen to them.

And about your daughter. Our one and only is still home. But the end could be near for us too. Am not looking forward to it.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Nursing home ministry is so important; it is too often neglected.

It is a different feeling having a child out of the house and living somewhere else. We are slowly getting used to it.