Showing Up

by Bob Turner on March 10, 2022

Jonathan Tjarks took a break from writing about sports last week to share the nightmarish details of his battle with a rare terminal cancer in “Does My Son Know You?” Tjarks is too young to be staring at the end of his life. But while contemplating his fate he’s been moved to contemplate his faith.
He does not seem to have grown up in church. And he even acknowledges that his health struggles have not necessarily brought him closer to God. Yet one constant support during these hard years has been a friendship with a pastor and a weekly life group. Tjarks describes his first visit to the church’s life group:
I remember walking up to the door and not knowing what to expect on the other side. There were about a dozen people in the living room talking to each other. I didn’t know any of them besides the pastor—and I barely knew him. I didn’t know what to do, so I did what most people would do: I headed over to the table with snacks.
I’ve been in that room hundreds of times. So it’s easy to forget what it’s like to walk in for the first time. Things that we think are normal, like going around the circle to take prayer requests or spontaneously breaking out in song could be unsettling for someone who is new.  And let’s not even talk about how in many churches like mine so many of us went to the same colleges and married someone we met there. Thankfully, Tjarks adjusted quickly

I can’t imagine not being in a life group at this point. Human beings aren’t supposed to go through life as faces in a crowd. It’s like the song from Cheers. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. 

Tjarks’s piece is fantastic ( I couldn’t help but reflect on how important it was that those twelve people showed up the night the new guy came. They had no idea he would be there. Or that five years later he would be diagnosed with terminal cancer. Or that one day he would ask them to be the lifelong support network for his toddler son. No, they thought they were just showing up, again, like always. 

We have been conditioned to think that showing up for something is justified only if we get something out of being there. Such a mindset is not only consumeristic, it’s also incredibly shortsighted. One of my closest friends is someone who showed up one night as the unknown new guy at a Super Bowl party hosted by our small group. Everyone else in the room had gathered together dozens of times. He later came to faith in Jesus. All of us who gathered that night thought we had simply come to eat wings and watch the Colts play the Saints. Even then, I’m glad we all showed up. Woody Allen once said that 80% of life is just showing up, which he contrasts with just staying home in bed. His estimate might be low. 

Showing up is not only about the new person coming in the door. It could also be about the person who has been around a very long time but has one foot out the door due to discouragement or doubt. Never underestimate the impact of your presence on a person who is at a pivotal point in their struggle with spiritual matters.

We need to show up. We need to develop habits and routines that make us available to others. We need to attend funerals and visit hospitals and join small groups. Only God knows what might happen when we show up. Every time we show up for the umpteenth time there might be someone else showing up for the first.

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25)


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