Thursday, May 30, 2013

It Just Is

"Guess who I been thinkin' about? Casy! He talked a lot. Used ta bother me. But now I been thinkin' what he said, an' I can rememberall of it. Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an' he foun' he didn' have no soul that was his'n. Says he foun' he jus' got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain't no good, 'cause his little piece of a soul wasn't no good 'less it was with the rest, an' was whole. Funny how I remember. Didn't even think I was listenin'. But I know now a fella ain't no good alone."
  -Tom, from The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

I’m thinking about community, about friendship, about abandoning the periphery, leaving the sidelines every once in a while. Thinking about being a friend, having a friend, quitting loneliness and isolation, opening up to the communal, the common, the linked hands, one body, shared glory of the Kingdom.

It is an open-handed, open-hearted kind of thing. It is a sacrificial kind of thing. It is a journey to the center of self, to the center of others, to the center of him. It is intentional and a bit awkward, I bristle and sweat beneath it, and I swear I’m shedding skin over here.

I’m in my late twenties and I still feel socially awkward. This can’t be normal. I treasure my solitary pursuits and I’m afraid that fully embracing community entails abandoning those, if not entirely at least in part. I’m terrible at checking voicemails and returning phone calls. Sometimes I really don’t feel like talking, I’d rather just listen to you, or listen to those people over there I don’t even know, or trace the shape of the passing clouds on my daughter’s open hand.

Sometimes I talk too much and I’m afraid if I don’t stop no one will ever want to sit by me again. But someone asked me about writing, or empowering women and girls, or Harry Potter and now I can’t shut up. Seriously. Seriously.  I am not good at this. Extend a little grace as I figure it out?

It was easy in college, even for me. It was all communal living, shared spaces and activities. There was minimal effort, just show up. If I needed alone time, I stepped outside, took a walk, picked up a book and erected my invisible wall. It was the the quiet lapping of ocean water at my feet, the initial cold at first a sharp discomfort, but I could wade in as quickly, or as slowly, as I wanted.

These days, it feels a bit like all or nothing. It takes a lot more effort, and most of the time I feel
like I’m failing at this community thing, a round peg in a square hole, my edges don’t match up, am I really made for this?

Yes, yes. I need you. I know I need you. I couldn’t have made it through without you. And sometimes the loneliness looms large like a sea swell, and there are days we all need a hand to hold, a prayer whispered over our lowered head, to laugh until we ache together.

I wish it was still easy, but these days, connection takes work. Sure, there have been a few people in my life who I’ve met, and there were never any walls at all. We were soul-sisters, quickly. You get me. I get you. Let’s skip everything that comes in between and lay on the concrete under this night sky, counting stars and naming birds. But those people don’t come around too often, not for me anyway. I’m terrible (terrible) at small talk, but we have to begin somewhere, right? It’s uncomfortable and a little bit like stiff new clothes, but it’s the beauty of all of our humanity intersecting, my sharp edges bumping up against yours, you’re telling me your story, and it’s beautiful and rich and I’m so thankful to know you, that you are here.

This weekend, I sat with my pastor and friend Cory and I talked long and circular about the books handwritten in spiral notebooks in my garage and the books swirling like ether in my head. We talked about birthing words like birthing children, and we wondered why war metaphors make me squirm. I took my toddler to the bathroom, she strapped helmets on little boys’ heads, deft hands avoiding delicate skin, and we walked too far and got too sweaty.

It’s in the big; it’s in the small. Friendship is forged in the mundane, sharpened by circumstance, strengthened by difficulty. It’s in the showing up, the reaching out and up and in. My darkness is dark, I shrink back so that no one will see it. But it is your listening ear, the weight of your steady, unflinching gaze that presses the darkness up against the sky, stretches it thin, shatters it like a pane of glass, and oh Jesus, is that light breaking through?

Can we be this to one another? Can we figure this out together? I’m a clumsy friend, I’m probably too sarcastic and I swear too much. But I also love to listen, I love to pray, and I really want to hear your story. Let’s look to heaven together, wonder together, embrace one another. It’s not all wild and romantic and spiritual, it just is.

(And I really love this song. Community is so good for me).
Ho Hey by The Lumineers on Grooveshark


  1. I love this. It's so true how its just the simple showing up that connects people. Over time you find that suddenly you know one another and enjoy showing up. There doesn't need to be some major event or deep conversation to weave together friendships. Often times it's just your presence that can display your care and desire for community more than anything else.

  2. Yes, breathing again. Learning to walk when we already should know how. You make me hungry to read more. Keep going!!!

  3. love this. as always. totally relate. thanks for WRITING MY HEART FOR ME!!!


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