Made for relationship
I started my day by staring out the east window as the waning crescent of the moon. We’ve still got four or five days until the new moon, so there is still quite a bit of light reflected. It is a beautiful orb. Along the edge where the illuminated portion meets the dark side the craters and mountains cast long shadows making them easier to observe.
In the wee hours I sometimes have the impression that I am the only one awake and looking at the beauty of the world. Of course I know that this is not true, but there is a sense of private blessing in the beauty that surrounds me. It is a day off for me, a rare time of Sabbath in a busy and hectic schedule. I don’t often stay away from my email two days in a row and I know that there will be an extended mountain of junk in my inbox when I take time to catch up, but I’m grateful for the peacefulness of a holiday that gives me extra time to look at the world.
Yesterday afternoon a small group of us took a short walk in the woods near our friends’ home, a place were we have often walked. The path leads up to the crest of the hill where there is a beautiful view of the valley spreading below and the higher hills in the distance. Someone has erected a small shrine there with a bench, a cross and a small statue of Mary the mother of Jesus. We can tell that it is still regularly maintained by the bits of new paint and additions of plastic flowers or other items from time to time. In the eyes of someone that we don’t know it is a sacred place. Who knows what earnest prayers have been prayed from that vantage point?
It gives me a different perspective to think that the beauty I witness is being witnessed by others who are unseen by and unknown to me. It seems to point to another important truth: we are not alone.
I get other reminders of that truth in different ways. From time to time different readers of my journal will drop me a note. They always come as a bit of a surprise and joy to me. I know rationally that people read what I write. The whole point of publishing to the web is to make my words public - to share them. But sometimes I forget about the people who read what I have to say. I rise in the wee hours of the morning and write because I can’t really figure out another way to live my life. I feel compelled to write in order to express and understand the dynamics of my life. I wrote before I decided to publish the blog with very little thought about who might read my words. Now that I have been writing publicly for a decade I am still guilty of writing without much thought to my readers.
The bottom line, however, is that we have been created for relationship. My inner drive to write is also an inner drive to share. The words that I cannot keep inside are not meant to be mine alone. The beauty of the moon, the glory of the setting sun over the hills, the awe inspired by our creation are not mine alone. They are to be shared.
Because my life is one of working with others, I sometimes have a tendency to be a bit of a recluse on my days off. My family noticed this early in my career as a pastor. I remember commenting to my mother many years ago that a gathering of my family was so much like the work I do every day that I couldn’t tell I was on vacation if I spent my time off trying to understand the dynamics of my brothers and sisters. Throw in a couple of my cousins and I’m completely snowed and soon feel the urge to run away and hide.
Still, I don’t hate my family. I long for time with them. I want to listen to the stories of their lives and the things that are most important to them. I grew up with these people and they are a part of my life no matter how far apart we live or how infrequently we spend time together. As one of the stories of creation from Genesis puts it, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’”
It is not good to be alone. We were created for relationship.
Or to put it another way, we need one another.
Throughout the history of the Christian Church there have been many mystics and other seekers who have given in to the urge to move away from society. Hermits, ascetics and monks have sought lonely places to explore their faith and deepen their relationship with God. Their stories have provided inspiration and theological clarity for generations of Christians. Similarly there are those who practice other faiths who have gone off by themselves and lived in remote locations for the purpose of spiritual quest.
If you study their writings, however, you discover an intense sense of justice and service to others that continually emerges. Taking time alone and apart from others seems to produce a heightened awareness and concern for the well being of those others.
Even as I seek out and revel in my days off when I stay at home and don’t venture into the mix and pace of every day life, I’m thinking of those I am called to serve. Don’t look for me at any of the Black Friday sales today. I’m likely to be at home with a book or in my yard catching up on chores. I might even take some of my time to clear out a bit of the mess in my garage. But I will be thinking of those I am called to serve and I plan to be back on the job with renewed energy and enthusiasm by tomorrow.