Pastoral Care and Parenting

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It was 9:30 at night. We had given him his medicine. We did our best to make sure that he got plenty of fluids. We did everything that you're supposed to do. Yet he was still miserable. One of the toughest parts of being a parent is when your child is sick. You feel completely powerless. There is nothing that you can do.

"Daddy, will you sit up here with me?"

But there is actually one more thing. It feels like nothing, but it can mean the world.

One of the most basic concepts that I learned in Pastoral Care and Counseling was the Ministry of Presence. When faced with individuals in crisis, ministers are often tempted to fill the aching silence with answers, sympathy, or assurances that things will turn out all right. Yet many times the best thing one can do is simply be with the person. Sit there. Be in the room with that individual. Give silent affirmation that they are not alone. This is the ministry of presence.

The concept made sense, but it didn't completely click for me until last night as I sat in our oldest son's room. All he wanted was for me to be there. It didn't make him feel less sick, but I guess it made him feel like he wasn't alone.

Everyone who follows Jesus is a minister and the Ministry of Presence is something that every Christian can offer. You do not need training. You do not need to go to seminary. You simply need to be there for someone. Be a friend. Be present. It is not just a physical presence, but a mental and, yes, spiritual presence.

We need to know that someone is close by. We want that in times of trouble. We also want in the joyous moments as well. The Ministry of Presence is not just something that we can give in times of crisis but in times of celebration and all the times in between.

This is probably all the more important today. Because of technology, many people can be physically with someone but not really present. In this world, we need to know that people are with us. In fact, Christians are supposed to embody an incarnational ministry that mirrors Jesus. What better way than being present can we reflect the life of one known as God with us.

Sitting in that room lit only by some Christmas lights by his bed, I felt like there was nothing else that I could do. Then I glanced over to see that little boy covered with blankets and surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed friends. Jim turned his head sideways at me and from that sore throat he whispered, "I love you, Daddy."

"I love you too, Buddy."

Sometimes simply being there is the greatest thing we can give.

Francis of Assisi in "The Canticle of the Sun!"

Unexpected Citizens