DON’T RUN! I promise this isn’t a weird, touchy-feely kind of post. We tend to get a little skeptical when we hear that word, “contemplative.” I promise, wherever that discomfort comes from, I’m not going there.
Over the summer I had an incredible opportunity to spend time in Albuquerque at a conference hosted by Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation. Sound fancy? Well… I suppose it depends on what your definition of fancy is. We spent three days listening and interacting with several, unique speakers: a theologian, a Franciscan friar, a professor, an interfaith guru, among others.
The most impactful moments of the weekend were shared in an exercise in which we were invited to participate after a couple of the presentations. The instructions were simple: Ask the given question and then respond with “thank you.” We were invited to do this with a random partner, each inquiring of the other three, separate times with the same question.
“How are you being impacted by what you have experienced here today?”
I looked across at my partner. She was a kind woman, only a few years older than I, with one of those souls that extend far beyond one’s physical parameters. So full of memories and experiences, tears were already dripping from her chin before I could finish the initial asking (much like the ones soaking my keyboard as I try to paint this picture for you all.)
Each response was met with a welcoming and supportive, “Thank you.” It doesn’t matter what the responses were. It didn’t matter then, either. What mattered is that we had given each other permission to be.
You read that correctly. We had given each other permission to simply BE!
Here is the powerful truth we discovered in this moment. The only way we can experience the full blessing of community is if we make space for another person to exist fully in it.
We cannot choose which parts of a person are welcome, as if to say “You can come in, but you had better leave that conservative ideology at the door.” Or, “You’re one of us, as long as you don’t make a fuss about how you prefer same-sex partners.”
Because of this experience, I can share that to be given the space to be completely vulnerable and then to find oneself wholly welcome and supported is the greatest gift I have ever received. This is the same gift Jesus gives us through the work he has done with his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
We are invited into community with the God of Love. The invitation is not contingent on our willingness to undergo a behavioral makeover or to attend a theological boot camp. Simply put: we are invited to be with God and with each other, each of us making space for the other. This type of community is a mirror of the Holy Trinity, where each person makes sure each other has enough space to fully belong. If we could grasp a small part of this practice, our faith communities would be irresistible.!
That wasn’t too weird, was it?