Brene' Brown, a sociologist whom I have a complete intellectual crush on, said something in her book Daring Greatly that has resonated with me on so many levels. "We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands." What she means is that we learn things...really learn them...through doing.
This past weekend at church, we observed communion, a sacred ceremony I have always cherished. As I held the communion wafer in my hand, I kept running my thumb over the cross embossed into it, and I couldn't help being overwhelmed with emotions as I contemplated what the cross has meant in my life. As I held the tiny cup, I pondered the impact that His blood has made, covering me with perfect grace. These two little sacraments between my fingers felt as if they were directly connecting me to the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world. Touching, seeing, partaking of these two very physical objects seemed to be pushing a revelation deep into my spirit.
Knowing how our minds work (because he made them), Jesus really knew what he was doing when he instructed us to remember him through communion. I love the physical elements present in the last supper: the bread, the wine, a table, friends.
I've been thinking a lot about friendship these past few months and what a spiritual necessity true communion is in our lives. I teach middle school, where friendship is of paramount importance to these kids. Although friends can be a revolving door on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis, they are vital to the existence of these hormonal preteens. Lately, I've been contemplating why we seem to focus less on friendship as we get older. I don't have all of the answers, but I definitely don't think it is because we stop needing people.
Being a psychology geek, I've read a lot of the human need for connection. Our independent-natured, goal-driven, western culture would like to convince us that we are immune to needing people, but scientifically speaking, that just isn't the case. People with strong social support systems are physically healthier, more emotionally stable, and may even live longer more fulfilling lives. Like it or not, I need you, and you need me. It's just how we were made.
I think back to a season of my life, not too long ago, where I didn't have many friends. I have always been a social extrovert, getting my energy from being around people, but a disconnection unraveled me during this phase of my life. I don't know if it was because I got so busy with life's daily duties, but friendships slowly slipped away and little action or energy on my part was made to restore them.
When I did find myself in the company of others, I felt awkward, disconnected, and insecure. Maybe it is because I had lost touch with myself that I felt I didn't have much to contribute. I compensated for the pangs of loneliness by filling my days with busyness and activities. I think I redecorated and repainted my dining room about three times over those few years , but rarely filled my table with the voices and laughter that my soul was truly craving.
The past year and a half has been quite a journey that has brought me very far from that lonely place. Once I reestablished true communion with Jesus, he began to heal and stitch me back into a community of closeness and coherence. My life is now filled with friendships, intimacy, and solidarity.
Some of these relationships are undeniable gifts of God, like my dear friend Aleasha. Our paths crossed on an unassuming Sunday afternoon. We were strangers only for a few minutes before we became fast friends. We quickly learned we were both teachers, and our life stories seemed to mirror each other in an uncanny parallel. Her sensitive, silly, loving nature has blessed me and strengthened me more than she knows. And she is just one bloom in a garden of friendships that have burst in sweetness this past year.
What I am learning is that friendship and communion are very similar. They are founded on the principles of participation and engagement. Like communion is the tangible act received for spiritual enlightenment, true fellowship is a physical, touchable deed that simultaneously renews the soul. I'm learning that what may not seem overtly spiritual can actually have a deeper impact on our spirits than we realize.
Friendship is totally sensory. It's gathering around a table that a friend built with his hands. It's a hug when the last week was just a little much. It's laughing harder than you have laughed in years. It's trying to have an adult conversation when all the kids are screaming like little crazies in the background. It's all about food: eating it, making it, talking about it! It's a sweet box of goodies and healing words on a card when life takes an irreversible turn, assuring you that the best is still ahead. It's thinking-of-you texts and prayers and phone calls. It's being there for the celebrations of life, the new phases, the preparations. It's cups of coffee and nights on the town. It's the touching of hands, the connecting of hearts, and the uniting of souls!
I think that is why Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love the warmth of togetherness and the bringing of people around tables. And I hope that the spirit of the day carries over into my week and month and year!
The poet, Edward Young, said, "Friendship is the wine of life". And if that is the case, I'm going to drink it all in like communion wine, filling my heart to the brim.
Let's talk about it!
Hey! My name is Andrea. I'm a teacher by day in a small Texas town, but in every other aspect of my life, I consider myself a learner. This blog is about life: learning through experiences, sharing through stories, and growing through faith.