I went to King of Prussia for lunch today. My friend Phil works in a business park. I had never been to a business park before. It was very interesting. It got me thinking about how incredibly astute we need to be at our isolation to remain separated they way we are.
Out of the manicured wilderness spring dozens of big 1970s buildings. Brick and bulbous yet nondescript on the outside, the inside of Phil’s office was bright with color and full to the gills with people. I broke onto the cubicle floor with little resistance in search of a bathroom as I waited for Phil. Cubicles are half walls now, so you could see everybody on the floor. The bathroom was bustling with people amicably talking about sports and other acceptable topics of conversation.
When I got back to the reception area I sat across from the sandwich lady. I noted the lack of eatery options in this sprawling facility. “So do you take the food around to the people in your cart?” I asked her. I had seen stuff like this on TV!
“No, Diane, the receptionist, sends an email, but there’s no Diane, so there’s no email.” She answered.
The room full of hungry people did not know her bean salads had arrived because Diane wasn’t there to send an email to announce the bean salad’s presence. It was interesting how together everyone was, and how very not. An outpost of teeming humanity in the once teaming with game no-longer-woods outside of Philadelphia held together by email alone despite the borderline absurdity of this concentration of bodies in this should-be-secluded locale.
Phil and I crossed the parking lot to eat at a cafe in another building. We were meeting up to talk about including people in Circle of Hope Broad and Washington. Of course, Phil had a regular lunch crew that he had to let know he wouldn’t be there. My observations about these people’s separation are mostly artificial, but the setting was too fascinating not to report and to correlative to our conversation.
In thinking about the people that Phil knows and reflecting on our own experience as Christians, we lamented the isolation of faith into our very private lives. Thoughts about the meaning of life are hard. Thoughts about death and the afterlife cause a lot of anxiety. Thoughts about confronting our limitations are painful. If we are to follow some of the prevailing wisdom of our age, we should figure these things out by ourselves. Regardless of what conclusions we are leaning toward, that’s hard! But for many reasons it is in fashion to come up with everything out of our own head for it to be valid. Why do we have to go it alone?
Phil and I were figuring out how to help our friends “go it together”–with us. We wanted to be with them in their struggle and be sensitive to the pain they’ve experienced, but without cutting the part of us off that gives us meaning. We don’t want to convince them that their isolation is wrong. We want to convince them that we love them. Sometimes it seems like we have to censor our hope in Jesus to do that, and maybe we do at first, but sometimes our hesitation to be ourselves in Christ is more about how similar our pain is to those who have, facing similar circumstances, decided to abandon the faith, nominal or otherwise, of their family of origin than it is about protecting those we are trying to love. We need to revisit that pain with God and be healed.
All the commands that Jesus gave us are impossible to achieve without Him. The Holy Spirit enables us to do what we are called to do by healing our past wounds, giving us courage, and even the words to say in those perceived as delicate moments of conversation. It’s all about trust. Our faith stays so small if we give it zero exercise. Relying on God is really hard to do just in our heads. We need to risk something to be saved again. We need to die to something to experience the power of the resurrection now. We need to “be with” as God is “with us.” We need to “go it together” with those who are following Jesus and with those who are not.