by Jason Hallman

Not so long ago, describing a feeling of “at home” during an activity tended to convey both comfort and capability in a particular task. Or maybe the task itself causes you to feel “at home,” creating safety and rest. I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my life this phrase is at risk of becoming hijacked! Home is less about what it provides and more about what it can lack.

A good example of this is personal presence. Being “at home” all this time, the gift of personal presence has become obvious. I love my wife Kristin and our children dearly, but I also love many other friends and family members. All those people I can’t be with. Communication by email, by phone, by text, or by your favorite video conferencing platform has been a blessing. It’s quite useful…but it’s become painfully clear that those methods of communication are not a replacement for the physical presence of our friends and family.

In the midst of this time spent “at home,” disappointing for many and even tragic, one gift for me has been the realization of the importance of presence. And it’s therefore so much more wonderful that God through Jesus was physically present with humanity. Jesus was present with his disciples day after day throughout his ministry. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present with me day after day even now. Even more than that, we’ve just arrived at the end of The Story, a future when we are promised that God will make his home with us at the renewal of all things forever (Rev 21:3).

And this realization has made all the difference for me today. It’s caused me to look for opportunities to be present in the lives of others. Particularly, the people who have been placed in my life right now. It’s been much easier and better received than I expected.

In its simplest form, I spend extra time with my family. My children have enjoyed their father home for more than 60 days straight. Rather than force my old work routine into a new location, I’ve taken advantage of additional flexibility to give extra time to them during the day. I’m so blessed to have many more discipling conversations with them thanks to resources provided by St. Luke and elsewhere.

I also have done more intentional things in my neighborhood too. St Luke has a “neighbor card” tool on our website to make it easy to introduce yourself to your neighbors in a time of physical distancing. Our family used that tool, and we were connected to 9 of 12 neighbors who received them. Four of those conversations were with neighbors we had not met before. Now we know their names, we know a bit of their story, and we are thinking about possibilities for building upon that relationship in the future.

I think that’s what St. Luke’s Mission is all about: “Seeking everyone’s story…sharing in His story.” It starts with making space for the people Jesus puts in our lives. The next step is learning how to identify the activity of the Holy Spirit and respond to those opportunities. And I’m grateful to be continually discipled in this by authentic relationships at St. Luke. It certainly requires dependence on Jesus…and faithfulness to complex truth in our culture. There are many possibilities for this as the restrictions start to lift. But that’s a topic for another day.

Who in our lives may be in need of our presence right now? They may be down the hall from us…or just next door to us. Following the example of Jesus, I’m imagining what it would look like to simply make space for others who may need it. I’ve realized that it’s up to us to be open to people as that first step.