Learning and Healing in Relationship


“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” –Wendell Berry

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One of the most remarkable and constant threads in our family’s walk through suffering is the amount of love and support we have received from others. This began with just a few local friends. It bloomed and grew to span all the way across the United States and the world. We have been wrapped in a network of love much larger than our geographical location could provide because of the power of story and the internet.

Early in our journey we had a home bound and wheelchair bound child with a year ahead of us in restrictive healing. I was a very sick mom in and out of the operating room with a very long road of surgeries and treatments ahead of me. Church was impossible. Book club was impossible. Participation in the charity groups who had loved us was impossible. I received countless cards and letters and emails but very few phone calls or actual visits. People naturally felt uncomfortable talking about their next planned vacation, big home improvement project, new shoes or even silly little gossip around a family that was literally just trying to survive the day. I understood this. Over time it caused an aching desire to participate in real face to face relationships and not just those behind a keyboard and screen.

We need community. This same girl who has always in some way loved being alone was drawn into this scary place of sharing in the blogosphere. It connected my family and me with people near and far we never would have known without technology. It brought many of the prayers and much of the provision we desperately needed. In all the good growing from the blog the lack of meeting and knowing face to face brought a hollow understanding of how God intended us to see our ultimate need for Him. In the flesh is where the work and the reward of relationships are really cultivated. Tim Keller wrote in his book King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, “If this world was made by a triune God, relationships of love are what life is really all about.” The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a continual reminder we are not soul freelancers. We need corporate worship. We need to physically be with the Body. We need to understand our brokenness is shared in some way by the whole.

In November I attended The High Calling retreat in the Texas hill country. It was a stretch for me in every possible way to join a group of people for an entire weekend in this intimate setting. I’d been begging God to restore some kind of community in my life. This was my answer. Everything God had given me, shown me and blessed me with needed the breath of life that could only come from opening my heart and being with people again. It was in this place my story began to take its’ final shape and became ready to be told beginning to end. I needed to come together with others to make my healing viable. I needed to taste the fruit that only comes by taking the risk of letting people into my life through the door of my heart to remind me how to do fellowship, friendship and love.

I am fumbling through this new found realization. As I have periods of being more well I need to relearn life from others. I need real relationship. I promise you I will be the strange lady who bursts into tears at the most inopportune times. I will not be good at small talk for a while. You will be surprised how quickly I want to talk about heart matters and soul issues. You will need to remind me to not be so serious. You may have to ask me to quit talking about the minutiae of neurosurgery and science of autoimmune illness. You will need to share your joys with me, because I DO care about your beach trip or your new countertop. I really do. I want to hear about the conversation you had with your kids in the car or your latest and greatest crockpot recipe. It will take some time and some effort, but I need you to heal.

It is authentic knowing and being known that points to the life sustaining relationship I have been given by Grace with Jesus Christ. Real bones and real flesh given in sacrifice for me encourage me to live and love more like He did in relationship. I need to finally get comfortable wearing the sign that calls me out as the poor and the brokenhearted. I need to surrender in the most uncomfortable places where I believe He does His greatest healing. Adele Calhoun sums it up beautifully in her chapter on community in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us:

My life has been shaped by men and women who loved me and handed me something of God in their very human lives. Their spiritual practices were woven into the fabric of their lives on the loom of relationships–both with God and with me. They had no halos. They told me the truth about the good, the bad and the ugly while passing on the lore of the spiritual disciplines they had traversed. I believe this is the way spiritual disciplines are to be learned. We are to learn them in relationships.

Has technology slowly siphoned your participation in face to face relationships? Do you use the availability of media for worship and teaching as a replacement of gathering together with a community of believers on a regular basis? What is one way you could tangibly reach out and touch someone today?

Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.

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6 Comments on Learning and Healing in Relationship

  1. Betty Draper
    January 20, 2015 at 12:39 pm (9 years ago)

    I can so understand the deep desire to be face to face with others. To see eyes fill with tears, crinkle with laughter, drop when something hits home is all important to me when listening to someone. To hear their voice change as they tell their story adds depth to the telling, it allows me an inside peek at their heart. To have someone listen to me intently helps my journey have value for I so want to have a Godly affect on others. I know I need their affect on me. I have a group of women that I meet with once a week and we have committed to each other our eyes, ears and hands when needed. God does call us aside at time where only He can reach us…but it’s for a season. When that season is over we are to communicate what He taught us in our time of being alone with Him. I have found to give value to those alone times I must share it…This was a great post, your heart is in every word. In fact I am going to share some of it with my bible study tonight.

    • Monica
      January 21, 2015 at 8:54 am (9 years ago)

      Betty, Thank you. I am finding as I gain strength and health I need to challenge myself to find regular face to face fellowship. It’s scary for me, but I know for sure God created us for this. Much love!

  2. Cindee Snider Re
    January 21, 2015 at 8:35 am (9 years ago)

    This is beautiful, Monica! I’m still in awe that God led each of us to Laity this year, offering us time and space and deep community, face-to-face conversations, moments when the veil thinned and we were standing on holy ground. We were made for community and I’m so grateful God graces us with it, however it comes, via screen or skin. For my son, screens keep him connected. They are literally a lifeline. For me, it’s a little of both. To live in a time where that’s possible is a blessing I don’t take for granted. Thank you for sharing your heart and your journey, for enriching my community and my life on this long walk home. ❤️

    • Monica
      January 21, 2015 at 8:51 am (9 years ago)

      Cindee, There is a part of my book dedicated to the amazing relationships formed through this world wide web. They have been lifelines in weeks and even months of not being able to leave my home. Many of these turned into face to face friendships. I know for sure I would not have found help for Danica after her first Chiari decompression failed without the internet. I’m just relearning how to be with people. It’s awkward sometimes, and I feel like a shy child entering preschool. God is helping me. I’m so blessed to have met you in the flesh and continue our friendship here until we meet again. I love you dearly!

  3. David Rupert
    January 22, 2015 at 11:19 pm (9 years ago)

    Monica. I am so glad you are part of our High Calling Community. The joy of community is that we really don’t have to be like each other be entwined in each other. I don’t anything about severe illness or even suffering — but I can be in community with you because of our common bond in Christ. And what a great open heart you have to those who don’t understand. You just want to be in a circle of other broken people — name the brokennness, doesnt matter.

  4. Christy
    January 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm (9 years ago)

    My dear Monica, after some time away from the screen — and missing you so dearly — I returned here to read your latest post before I completing my letter to you. You know my heart well enough to know how deeply this spoke to me on so many levels; the beginning of my note to you addresses this very topic!

    Technology allows for authentic relationships to be created across the miles and can open the door for deep and real friendships of individuals who many not have otherwise met. We were created for community – and the communities created online are lifelines for so many of us. Even so, I feel that nothing can replace the value of hearing the voice of another or interacting face to face (even for an introvert!).

    I absolutely agree with Cindee — in my solitude, I am learning to find a balance. Some quiet is needed for me to be able to hear the call of the Holy Spirit and to remember my voice. Yet – “healing is impossible in loneliness” and we were created for community — to support and love one another. I’m learning to find the balance is necessary to do God’s good work! Thank you for sharing your heart, Monica. You touch others and share God’s love in all that you do. I love you!


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