Gleaming With Joy
Following what happened to her, Erin travels to the DC area to meet these friends in person
I know with a profound certainty that the desires of my heart are remarkably, absolutely, wonderfully infinite. And this certainty has grown because of a book club.
After receiving a simple invitation at the start of this year, I joined a small group of my roommate’s friends–most of whom I had never met before–in a virtual book club to work through The Risk of Education. Most of us work in the realm of education, but this group was open to anyone who shared a longing to encounter something remarkable each day in their work. Faced with our own desires and the desires of our friends, we were more than willing to make the effort to share our time. We carved out evenings whenever we could to discuss all that we had encountered in our work in light of the text we shared.
This space slowly became less of a time to remark on the difficulties of teaching. In fact, instead of only being a place where we shared our desire for our students to uncover these truths, we came to realize that we longed to encounter these things for ourselves. It was no longer about how to invite Christ into a classroom or a meeting; it meant recognizing that He is present, that He is the one inviting us. This longing we carry has already been met, is already being met in every possible way. So what, then, we asked, does it mean to live in this reality? In the reality of the certainty of Christ’s presence? And we found that it means everything, to put it simply.
It was proposed after we completed the text that we could hold an in-person assembly of sorts. We traveled from across the Midwest and East Coast to a home in the DC area. At some point before making this journey I feared that our coming together would happen in a gesture that was too formulaic, too full of preconceptions and my own anxieties. I worried that there would be something I would have to prove when we gathered, someone I would have to become–or pretend to be–to be truly a part of this moment. I couldn’t trust that I belonged to these people, that what I had been experiencing in all of this work was real.
But when these people walked through the door, it was as if Reality, in all its mystery, in all its splendor and its glory, were looking right at me. A gaze of love, gleaming with joy. To encounter these people: these faces that have made up my Thursday nights, these voices that have encouraged me and invited me to face my desires without casting anything aside, these hearts that have loved me, concretely and definitively–when I saw them in that room, there was nothing left to say. There was a friendship there, a real friendship, absolutely. One that could not be challenged or contested. A friendship founded on the hope and desire for the other’s destiny.
To encounter these friendships in the flesh was to unveil in my heart the immensity of my longing. After this weekend together, I’ve found myself repeating to anyone who asks how I am doing, “There is a desire in me for everything, and this everything is One Thing.” There is need of only one thing. I’ve read this, I’ve heard this, but to look in the faces of my friends was to know this concretely.
I spent that evening with my friends feasting – sharing songs, guitars, and servings of pasta. The entire night was saturated with a joy that only makes sense, that could only be true, if that for which we longed was truly in our midst. It has been a gift to journey with these companions. A gift I am unlikely to forget.
So, thank you, my friends. It is good to be in this longing with you.
Erin, Kansas City, KS