The weather finally got chilly, and I hear people all around me talking about how they don’t do the cold. I admit that a grey rainy day followed by a cold blustery one was a bit of a shock, but we are far from winter! It doesn’t take much to send people into hiding. My husband got back from the gym and said that only three other people were there. I ran a quick errand and no one was out. Across the street the park was empty and basketball court silent.
It’s not just the cold; there are plenty of other reasons we go into hiding. We all avoid discomfort in big and small ways. It is normal to organize our lives to maintain a sense of familiarity and comfort. That is why I am amazed every time people show up to do the uncomfortable work of relating by forming a cell.
This week as I drove across Germantown to my friend Jasmine’s new house, I wondered who would actually show up to start this new thing with me. I am trying to start a new cell and I have been inviting lots of people, but until they walk in the door, I can’t be sure who will actually come. An evening with Netflix, YouTube, and take-out is predictable and comfortable. Showing up to meet strangers in someone else’s living room is totally not. The discomfort of the unknown can be enough to send us into hiding. Why push to get out the door?
There is surprising solidarity when you lean into discomfort with others instead of avoiding it. I am not sure what went through each person’s mind in order for them to show up Tuesday night, but we had instant common ground as we met each other. Overcoming the instinct to withdraw in order to show up is an act of faith! Our faith grew as each person walked in. Jesus was alive in our presence with each other. When we lit the candle, that little flame of hope was present in each of us. There are other people out there who want to connect and relate! There are other people out there who will brave the elements! The discomfort quickly turned to laughter and stories, warmth and transparency. By the end of an hour and a half we were praying for each other and exchanging phone numbers.
As I drove home that night, I remembered the words of my friend who, when asked why she showed up to cell said, “Cell is a place for me to be around the table with people I might not otherwise have known or become friends with. They get into my heart and sit in there. Somehow they change me. Their love sits in there and does something. I need that.” That is what we mean when we say that Jesus is best revealed incarnationally. He gets in there through the people. We are the church and we reveal Jesus to each other, whose love gets in there and changes us.
You might not like the cold weather, but overcoming discomfort to show up and relate in a cell is an opportunity to act in faith. It’s a way to stoke that flame of hope and let love get into your heart and change you too.