On how to survive this constant fray.

It was quiet that day.

Mid-day.

Sun high.

Scorching.

Humidity as thick as the shame the woman felt.

That’s why she went to the well, after all.

No one else would be there.

No one cat-calling. No one spitting at her feet. No one turning the other way to avoid her. No one carrying invisible signs that read “slut,” or “worthless,” or worse.

There were no crowds.

To be sure, the man who met her there created and moved crowds on occasion. But when he really wanted to change a life, he picked a time no one would notice, except of course for the one who needed him most.

He looked in her eyes–first time anyone had done that in a long time. It unnerved her, that deep, gentle stare.

She had to turn away.

But he refused to leave. 

I’m talking about Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. (Click to read about it in John, chapter 4.)

And I want to be more like that.

No shouting. No name-calling. No talking over people who think differently from me. No turning the other way to the hurt and shame of others.

I fail.

A lot.

Especially these days, when fury seems like the new standard, the resting posture of so many of us.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence I felt led to make 2 Corinthians 10:5 my memory verse for the second half of January. I need to take every thought captive more than ever. And I’m learning I have to get drastic to do so. I took all social media applications off my phone. I made a pact with myself to check it once a day, twice at the most, but only for messages–not to scroll and fall into the fray. I figure anyone who really needs to get ahold of me knows my email or my phone number, and that’s enough. It’ll have to be. This isn’t something everyone should or even wants to do. But for me, well, I’m finding that the more time that passes with this new quiet, this new posture, the more I feel peace re-entering my heart.

The less connected I am to the world, the more re-connected I am to Him.

(This is the great conundrum of course–how to be in the world, but not of the world; how to reach out without falling in. All we can do is try to find a balance the best we can, with the Lord’s help.)

I wonder what we’ll have to say for ourselves in five, ten, twenty years.

I hope we’ll be able to say we were kind in spite of the times; that we were still able to hear the birds singing in the morning; that we still noticed the small green spears of crocuses and daffodils emerging this spring; that we held banners of love high above signs of hate; that our children were able to watch us and learn swords of grace and mercy work best against hate.

I hope.

I sure hope.

I know for sure I can’t do it by reading and listening to the soundbites and the news feeds and the home pages anymore.  And I can’t do it at all without turning my focus, my eyes, and my heart on him, the man at the well.

Like I said, I fail. And I will again, because I’m human, and because it’s hard not to hear constant, deafening outrage.

But there is a voice calling, even and still in this wilderness,

and it’s filled with words like those found in Philippians 4:8-9:

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart. The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things in daily life, and the God who is the source of peace and well-being will be with you.

The source of peace.

The source of well-being.

Center your mind.

Implant them in your heart.

That’s my prayer for me first, since I fail at this worse than anyone I know.

It’s my prayer for you, too.

And maybe…maybe…something good will bloom out of these dark times after all.

The burden of one

Each of us has a burden to carry.

A thing to be rid of.

A brokenness to rend and mend.

And we were never meant to carry it alone.

To be sure, the burden we carry can only fit into one set of arms. But we were never meant to walk with full arms without someone to walk alongside us.

Problem is, our armloads flow over our elbows, which all-too-often jab and push away fellow travelers, leaving us alone and afraid. 

Ironically, the same fear of traveling alone can cause us to resist friendship. The burdens which overflow our hearts make it near-impossible for some of us to accept love from someone else. We’re just too full of pain to accept anything more from the world, even the blessing of someone who cares.

And yet, God designed us to need–even require–the company of another. He knew from the Beginning it is not good for man (or woman) to be alone. So it makes sense that evil finds ways to isolate us and cause us to resist fellowship with one another.

With the holidays upon us, loneliness hidden and silent morphs into pain, prickly and loud.

In the Old Testament, Israelites had many different offerings they’d present to God. One, in particular, was called the fellowship offering. It was the one offering where the animal which was sacrificed was then served at a meal for everyone to share and enjoy. Some scholars say it was a symbol of inward peace associated with a restored relationship.

This reminds me of a service at church a few weeks ago. I attend a pretty large church, where it’s easy to lose myself in the crowd and not really, deeply interact with anyone–a temptation easy for me to sink into, because friendship often scares me. Yet this service was centered around Communion. It wasn’t the typical Communion service, where the plates of bread and drink are passed along, no one looking at each other, no one talking. This time, giant round tables were placed in the front of the church, and row-by-row, congregants filed down and encircled the tables, held hands and spoke encouraging words to each other

Then they took Communion.

I sat near the back of the church and watched and waited for my turn. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched others connect.

I wanted fellowship.

But it terrified me, too.

Divine chance led me to a table with a young couple who were part of our first small group, and another couple I knew were terrific prayer warriors. The row of congregants facing our table were filled with some of my favorite friends from choir, and their voices seeped into my grateful soul. In a few rows behind them sat friends who’d lost spouses and friends in pain and friends who know about my pain and crud, but friends who choose to embrace me anyway.

I held hands with my husband and one of the prayer warriors. I ate the broken bread. I drank in the symbol of blood shed for me.

And I knew the burden of allowing just one person near my heart is worth it.

Fellowship.

A sacrifice.

But so, so worth it.

“We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!” I John 1:3 (TMV)

(This post was written today as part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival on Fellowship.)