Over the last month, various circumstances have aligned to remind me of an obvious and basic truth of life. It’s as if God started setting up dominoes a few weeks ago, in an intricate pattern of intertwining circles that He would eventually cause to fall into one another only to reach the end of themselves in the center of it all. A central truth that was connected by so many small and different circumstances and thoughts. A central truth that isn’t a mystery by any means, but seems to be difficult to integrate into life.
I guess it started when my daughter left for Kenya for the summer. A summer full of people she’d been dying to get back to for a year and a summer full of new people she would have to connect with and say goodbye to over and over. That part is difficult I think. I know it is for me. Both building relationships and saying goodbye.
Then a friend from our gym told me about a podcast that she loved and I proceeded to binge on it for the next 2 days. It left me with an odd and disturbing feeling. I guess it was a mixture of sadness and disgust. Sadness over the loneliness and self destruction so many people live with and disgust over the way we treat each another.
These two events were followed by weeks of my husband traveling, a busy schedule without much recollection of what kept me busy or of any meaning or value behind it all and news reels of terror attacks. Posts on Facebook that reminded me how long it had been since I’d seen friends. A novel that challenged my thoughts on how a person of faith walks through this world and loves people. Stories of friendships my husband was making in countries where you would assume they had nothing in common. Friends struggling with heartaches over children, marriages, sickness and disappointments. Even my grandbaby having such a profound connection with her mommy. One that you can literally see in her eyes when they are close or when she realizes mommy isn’t there. One is of deep joy and love and the other of deep sorrow that I can’t explain but to say there is a tangible ache in the room.
In the middle of it all I was blessed to spend 3 hours with 2 friends that I hadn’t seen in 30 years. I was nervous, to be honest. Me. The one who worries about going to parties and making conversation with people I see all the time. I would have to find a way to connect after three decades…. But it was so easy. They are as lovely, fun and beautiful as they were in high school and I left that day feeling blessed and encouraged. It was as if someone had lifted 20 pounds off of my back and I realized the central truth that I always come back to.
We are made for connections.
Even the most introverted among us need people in our lives who care for us and know us. People who can disagree with us but love us anyway. People who give life meaning and support us when it seems to have none.
My son-in-law recently reminded me of Audible so I downloaded a couple of books, Shakespeare’s sonnets and a book of poetry by Robert Frost (one of my favorites). One of his quotes came to mind the other night as I sat in my living room late into the evening having a “discussion” with my youngest and a friend of ours.
“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.” Robert Frost
I realized the next morning that I had enjoyed the debate but had wasted all too much time arguing for the sake of arguing or with the hopes of convincing them of my views when the reality was that I didn’t have to. Many of my opinions are nonsense. I’m sure of it. I would dare say that many of yours probably are too. I say this because I’ve watched many an opinion change over the years and I’m sure I will continue to do so. I’ve thought myself to make sense only to find, later, that I was making very little. So, why do I waste time arguing past the point of understanding one another? Why do I get so defensive? Why is it so important that someone agrees with me or sees my point of view? Is it pride and the need to be right? Is it wanting to feel as though my opinion is valued or respected? Is it wanting to be heard?
Maybe all of the above.
The truth is that we can disagree and still be valued, respected and heard. It’s even possible that both sides can be right. But, we so often push and push and push instead of realizing that the very pushing we do to draw someone closer to us is only building walls between us.
And then another Frost quote…
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”
Frost beautifully argues that neighbors don’t need walls between them. Sure, cows may need a wall to keep them out of an orchard but people…. people don’t need fences.
His neighbor tends to think that “good fences make good neighbors” and I wonder if we all have been convinced of that very thing as well.
Has our fear, pride and insecurity caused us to isolate ourselves? Sometimes without even realizing it? Other times, purposefully, to protect ourselves or to hurt someone else?
Have we forgotten what it’s like to have people in our lives who are truly a part of our lives? What it’s like to sacrifice our right to be “right”, our time, our energy or our defensiveness in order to love, help and know someone else in a really vulnerable way?
I think the conversation that God used as the tipping point of the first domino was one I had in my front yard with a young woman we’ve watched grow up. As we talked about relationships and life and emptiness and fulfillment, (and her not even knowing that I had been struggling with all these thoughts as of late), she said, “We need connections. But, there is something unexplainable about the connection I have with a friend who loves Jesus in comparison to my relationship with someone who doesn’t. It’s so much deeper even when we are talking about things that aren’t deep.”
And the dominoes started to fall. Twisting and turning through my mind as I thought of walls, loneliness, purpose, friendships, hate, fear, shame, forgiveness, value, acceptance, meaning, death, life, healing……
Falling into a beautiful pattern of intertwined circles that wouldn’t seem to have any connection until they each came to the end of themselves and fell at the feet of love. A love that is unexplainable but that another believer not only understands, but carries inside of them. I was reminded that my life is never full, never meaningful and never powerful without it flowing from the center of God’s heart. The very heart of love itself. Without my heart being in tune with His heart and without my days passing in an undying pursuit of connecting with the people whom He loves so dearly, it is all in vain.
Because of His never-ending faithfulness, until we understand and remember this, He will continue to set up the pieces again, and again. To align our circumstances, speak in the most mundane things, highlight the failures around us and to remind us over and over and over again that what we need and what we are created to give is one in the same: Love.