You can count on this: If it’s a horribly hot day—or a bitter cold day—our public library will fill up. With people who are unhoused. With those who have nowhere cool (or warm) to escape to.
That Wednesday was our most extreme weather day yet. I stopped by the library to grab a book, eat some chocolate, and drink a Diet Coke in between errands in town. You have to go to the lounge on the 2nd floor for that.
I’ll tell you what to expect on the 2nd floor of the library: the unexpected.
God was already up there. I knew that. (Where people are, God is.) All manner of people were gathered around the wooden tables sitting in the plastic chairs.
The only person in the room that you’d label conventional was the Coke machine guy doing his restocking.
- At the closest table to the door were two loud Black brothers talking random things—“Yeah, he tries too hard to be ghetto.”
- Another table held a disheveled white guy with a tiny Black woman, maybe 19. I’ve seen her around, usually with a different guy each time. As hard as it is be an unhoused man on the streets, it’s even harder to be a woman. Women sometimes find a guy to be their covering, but I’d seen and heard stories of how “helpful” that could be. My heart went out to this girl.
- A third table held a man in his 40s with a half loaf of bread. He was making a sandwich, muttering under this breath all the while. I could tell he was agitated.
Finally the man making the sandwich could take no more.
“Excuse me,” he started talking with an edge to the Coke machine guy. “There are some people here using crass language and they need to stop. Will you handle that?”
I looked up. What would the Coke guy do? The two men by the door just laughed. I assumed they were the ones being accused of the language.
The poor Coke guy.
He glanced up, barely, and muttered some response. Not much. He sped up his work and got out of there fast.
It crossed my mind to leave, too. I didn’t mind hanging out there, but I didn’t want to get caught in the midst of a brawl. Not prepared for that. Ever. But I stuck around anyway.
What happened next?
The white guy with the girl stood up and stretched. The Black men kept talking, laughing. The sandwich guy kept eating.
I finished my Coke, folded up the other half of my Dove bar for tomorrow, and walked back into the world of books.
Just as God had gone in first, I knew God would stay to the last. That’s what God does. God is always present.
And God likes it when we are present too. If God needs us to do more, God will let us know. And if we’re paying attention, we’ll act on that knowing.
So why had I been at the library that afternoon? No idea. Maybe just to observe. Maybe for someone else to observe. Like many other places I’ve found myself the past few years, I’m just showing up. Once I’m in, if God wants more from me, I’ll find out about it then.
And if not, so be it.
I’m finding contentment in just showing up with God. Stopping my overanalyzing. Releasing my hyper-responsibility to figure things out.
We don’t have to understand all we see. We don’t have to actively achieve something in all we witness.
Sometimes the most important thing we can do is just be present. Trust God to be present, too.
Presence was enough that day in the library.
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When have you found doing “nothing” was the right thing to do? Please share in the comments.
revised from the archives
- Just Get Your Body There; Your Spirit Will Follow
You’re not ready? Just show up anyway. God will show up, too.
- Oh, God, the Places You Show Up
And God became incarnate again that night in two more humans in the cab of Jeff’s truck.
- When You Don’t Want to Show Up
I don’t feel qualified to teach this class. Should I not show up? Or maybe I’m missing the point?
- Are You Uncomfortable Filling Your Calendar with Empty Spaces?
- When You Turn On the Lights