I’m a fixer.
I love to solve a good problem; I love a challenge.
You can’t find a cheap 4-star hotel for your trip to New York City? Please, let me help. I’ll have 3 suggestions in your inbox by tomorrow morning.
You want 100+ reluctant-to-read eighth graders to pass the state standardized test? I’ve got a plan. I’ll get your results.
You haven’t watched Season 1 of Sherlock? Here. Borrow my Netflix password.
This makes me a great person to have on your trip, on your team, or in your pocket, but it makes me a bit of a liability as a friend.
Because, you see, I have a tendency to want to fix my friends’ problems, too. And while, that certainly makes me helpful some times, most life problems can’t be solved by a quick Google search, creating a multicolored flow chart, or my extensive knowledge of pop culture.
And that leaves both parties frustrated.
It leaves me frustrated because I can’t solve a problem and check it off my list, and it leaves my friend frustrated because I’ve whittled a very real problem in their life down to a 3-step process they need to implement in order to stop the crying.
In my defense, I don’t do this all of the time, but I’ve started noticing that it’s my natural inclination. And, I’ve been learning to beat that natural inclination into submission and prayerfully pause and listen to the Holy Spirit before saying anything.
Now that I’m a grown up, my friends aren’t calling me because they don’t know which prom invitation to accept or what to do when they run out of room on their iPod.
They’re calling me because they struggle with depression or anxiety issues.
They call because their marriage is in trouble.
They call because it’s the anniversary of a parent’s death.
They call because they’re overwhelmed with the debt their family is carrying.
And, while I’m tempted to offer a step-by-step process along with a joke or two, I can’t fix anyone’s situation. The sovereign God of the universe, the one who hears their prayers and sees their tears far more intimately than I do, is in control.
What’s required of me is to be present, to minister to them by listening to their joy and pain and to just be available.
To hear them without distraction, without hesitation, without reservation.
To pray with them, for them, and over them.
To remind them that they are loved by God, by me, and by others.
To model Jesus’ example as He dwelt on Earth and ministered through His presence.
While they don’t need my flow charts, they do need my follow-up phone calls, my notes or emails with Scripture, my regular invitations to coffee or dinner, and my involvement in their lives. They need me to see them and not get so caught up in my own life that I forget their pain.
I’ve always been slightly annoyed at people’s lack of creativity when they say, “You’ve always been there for me.” I’ve wondered why we couldn’t come up with a different way to express the same sentiment. I mean, we’ve been writing that sentence in each others’ yearbooks since seventh grade.
The funny thing is, when it comes to ministering by our presence, I’m learning there really is no higher compliment than to be “there” for someone.
I pray it is said of me.