The compelling desire to be with others in more authentic ways, ways that will foster diversity and reconciliation and help us to act for justice, often presses in on us long before we find others who share that desire. We can feel very alone. We long for something more, but don’t know how to find others who might be willing to step out into new structures and processes with us.
You might be wondering where to start. That’s easy: start where you are. Let the new way begin in you.
We can’t expect others to internalize what we have not yet internalized ourselves. The first “other” we must be reconciled to is our own self. Our true self in Christ waits to know and be known by us. Are we in love yet with that beloved and broken child of God? Are we moving toward freedom from our own addictions? Are we actively seeking to reconcile our own broken relationships? Are we being honest about our own need for transformation, even as we ask God to bring others who are aware of theirs? Our first task is to confront ourselves lovingly and begin to surrender those attachments we cling to that keep us from clinging only to God.
And, of course, we need others. For starters, you have us. We will have conversation and find ways to support each other, even at a distance. We will share with each other how desperate we are for this — how much we need and want recovery — until we find that we are no longer satisfied with staying on the surface in any of our conversations. As we dare to speak more deeply with others, God opens doors to find those who also want something more.
What was it about Jesus that drew people to him? Primarily, they liked him. He treated them with respect; listening and confronting and speaking from his depths. When we are freed to be our true selves, our affection for each other will increase, and our conversations will take on a depth that we might not have imagined.
Yes, many of us have had the experience of being held hostage by a religious extrovert, and we might not want to be seen as one of “those Christians,” but this is no excuse. We must be willing to take the risks of authentic friendship and compassionate connection, revealing ourselves for who we really are. Often these conversations become the way to discover who will be our companions on this journey.
FINDING OUR OPPOSITES
Finding those who are our so called “opposites,” and talking about spiritual things, can feel even more intimidating. Basically we get tripped up by fear. We fear seeming arrogant and disrespectful. We fear being ridiculed. We fear being swallowed up by the pain of seeing so directly into the dismal face of poverty or privilege. We fear being paralyzed by our guilt over the discrepancies between us. These fears are legitimate and need to be felt. And then we must go anyway.
Our guiding question will be, where would Jesus go? Most of these places will be where the privileged and connected are the ones on the outside.
Look around your town or county. Where are people struggling for a better life? Where have people been abandoned? Where is the church absent? Find these places and go there. Don’t go there to serve anyone. Don’t volunteer to answer the phone or organize a clothing drive or teach reading or fix a meal. Don’t do anything. Be. That’s all. Learn how to hang out with people who are not like you. Hear their stories, and share something of yours. Be in the tension of not knowing for sure what to say or do. Relax and receive whatever God wants to give you. Learn to be present.
We will not be able to be the church that God intends if we don’t let God plant in us, very simply, a passion for people. Not a coercive, codepenclent “love that’s not love,” but true affection that desires nothing else than to be there, and to be real. Crowds gathered around Jesus because he was available, and he was genuine. Who he was with them was who he was within himself. Are we living true to our inner selves? Are we the kind of people others enjoy being around? Do our schedules allow “hanging out time,” and do we hang out where destitute, lonely people hang out?