“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
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.