“The Lord brought us there for presence.” I was struck by these words as a nurse group leader shared her experience at Hawaii's recent state American Nurses Association conference. Her nurse group had registered as a vendor to represent Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF). Their booth outside the main conference hall provided opportunities to talk about the importance of community and the support a nurse group can provide. This nurse realized God had brought her and NCF to the conference to provide presence for attendees.
For some, presence is a concept and for others a skill. For a few, presence becomes a way of life. Geller (2021) discusses presence from a counseling perspective which also parallels the therapeutic relationships nurses build. Geller notes presence requires “bringing their whole self to the encounter with clients and being fully in the moment on a multitude of levels: physically, emotionally, cognitively, relationally, and spiritually” (p. 688). Presence incorporates being grounded to better handle the challenges of caring. It also provides an opportunity for those we care for to be seen, heard, and safe as trust is built (Geller, 2021).
As I meditate on the importance of presence, I value its function in our work and ministry as nurses. We offer presence to our patients and to each other. I am also aware presence is counter to our natural response. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, writer, professor, and theologian, reminded us it is normal to move toward “fixing” rather than being present when someone else is hurting or when we find ourselves in pain (Lin, 2009). Nouwen emphasized that true healing comes in “being together where it hurts. God came to share our pain, and healing takes place in the sharing...in spiritual life, there is no sharp distinction between joy and pain” (Lin, 2009, para. 4). We see this lived out both at Gethsemane and at the cross (Lin, 2009).
How do we begin to have presence with each other? Psalm 46:10 (NLT) tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God!” Until recently, I had assumed to be still meant I should not be running at my normal chaotic pace. But Chad Bird, a pastor, professor, and lecturer of the Old Testament and Hebrew, sheds new insight into this Scripture. “Be still” is from the Hebrew word rapha which means to relax or to let go of (Bird, 2020). Presence begins by letting go. I do not need to fix or be in control. I can be with others in their pain and in my own pain because God is my strength, my rock, my foundation—he is my hiding place. Psalm 46 also resounds with God's presence with us: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea” (v. 1-2, NLT).
Nurses Christian Fellowship nurse groups are places of presence. You will find men and women willing to listen as you share your story. They know what Nouwen speaks of when he stated, “To care means being where the suffering is. It's a way of living together so the mystery of life is revealed” (Lin, 2009, para. 9). You will experience corporate Bible study, prayer, and fellowship.
Experience life in its fullness as we walk through the difficulties together and grow in deeper intimacy with God. Learn the power of presence. Encounter what it means to rapha—to let go and be still. Discover NCF nurse ministry and find a nurse group at ncf-jcn.org/nurses.
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Bird C. (2020, March 22). Three Hebrew handholds in a spinning crisis
. 1517. https://www.1517.org/articles/three-hebrew-handholds-in-a-spinning-crisis
Geller S. (2021). Cultivating online therapeutic presence: Strengthening therapeutic relationships in teletherapy sessions. Counselling Psychology Quarterly
, 34(3-4), 687–703. https://doi.org/10.1080/09515070.2020.1787348
Lin L. (2009, January 1). The healing power of presence: A visit with Henri Nouwen
. Shalem Institute. https://shalem.org/2009/01/14/the-healing-power-of-presence-a-visit-with-henri-nouwen/