I love nature with its grandeur. At times when watching a sunset or breakers crashing ashore my breath is taken away. I also love cities. I have literally been in a lifelong love affair with cities. I love walking them. I love listening to them. The city holds complexity and vibrancy; they encompass light and darkness, life and death. It is difficult imagining wearying of them.
But both are mere subplots in my life for my love for people. I must admit a perpetual enchantment with people, friends and strangers. I'm captured with each person’s diversity and one-of-a-kind uniqueness. I marvel when I see or discover what motivates others. Each time I am with a group of friends, I begin to inch closer to the compelling future depiction of what the Bible calls “the new heaven and new earth.” If it isn’t like that, it should be.
I suppose that is why I like pastoring so much. I get the tremendous opportunity of partnering with people on their life journey. Whether sitting with a young single woman as she describes her aloneness, through tears or smoking a cigar with a group of men “yukking it up” like adolescents or sitting with someone as they breath their last. All of these and more are elegantly sacramental and feel like a beautiful life dance that leaves me whispering prayers of gratefulness.
To be candid though, this love affair stuff does bump up against certain things, such as reality. See, I am also a hopeless dreamer/romantic. That means that there is an inescapable collision looming, and my love affair with people is not excluded from the dust up. I call this the romance/reality collision. See, I am curious with virtually everyone I meet. In my mind I think each new acquaintance is one of the most amazing humans ever. Truth be told, theologically at least, they are! In hard reality though, they’re just like me… broken which has a lovely side to it, but also can be incredibly emotionally taxing. When coming face-to-face with this challenge the natural tendency is to retract or create a personal safe zone. That means you begin to create distance or establish boundaries.
This, however, is precisely when love conquers. It must conquer! Even though I am semi-proficient at interpersonal engagement, my particular proclivity toward others can become paper-thin. Over time, however, I've come to understand and deeply appreciate that it is in the collision and the challenge that true community is exposed as real or whimsical and is potentially thickened, crafted into a love poem. The many lines of this poem are: long-suffering and endurance, honesty and vulnerability, confession and forgiveness, admiration and mutual respect, grace and mercy, tears and laughter that are both impulsive and lasting. If these encounters with others can holdfast, move toward rather than away from the “other,” I am convinced they provide a hallowed space for and a demonstration of what life at it's very finest can be.
It is a lens I want to see the world through, held in the tension of curiosity to engage and resolve to stay.