Not too very long ago, during our second COVID lockdown, I ran into someone from my church in the grocery store. He’s been a part of our church most of his life, much longer than my just over 7 years as pastor. We chatted for a couple of minutes about COVID restrictions and then went our separate shopping ways.
Afterwards, I was struck by how ephemeral so many of our human interactions are. Of course, I get that some of this is unavoidable. But this particular experience left me feeling like our lives actually allow very little space for more meaningful conversations.
So often the words we exchange represent only the tip of the iceberg of our lives. Our hopes, our struggles, what we believe, and how we’re getting on in the world, unaddressed. Or at least unacknowledged. Perhaps even by us. Because of the unreasonably fast pace of life, many have become practical introverts, leaving large swaths of who they are out of view.
It’s almost like we don’t have the permission or maybe even the vocabulary to talk about the most important things. Our lives have been stripped of the transcendent, and we’re often without a connection to something (Someone?) larger than ourselves through which (Whom?) all the disparate aspects of life find their coherence.
We content, or maybe even resign ourselves, to living disenchanted lives, cobbling purpose and meaning together out of a hodge-podge of sources. Our lives lack a narrative arc that gives the varied experiences a sense of wholeness. Life—our lives—get reduced to their component parts. Everything gets compartmentalized; nothing hangs together.
Even in church, there is often a real lack of genuine spiritual conversation. The very space where people should have the opportunity to make deeper connections, to ask questions and to share their thoughts about meaning and how matters of faith intersect with everyday life, becomes another experience of rushing past the personal and skimming along the surface.
Where is the place or the time to articulate in community, in conversation, those nagging feelings of uncertainty, or the longing for a more meaningful experience of God? Where is there space and time to talk about the personal frustrations about our lives and how God is (or doesn’t seem to be) involved?
Are we content with leaving matters of such profound personal significance on the margins of our everyday lives? Or if that itself is a frustration, what do we do about it?
Am I alone in wanting space and time and freedom for leisurely conversation with others about stuff that deeply matters? Do you have a desire to spend unscheduled time with friends over coffee, wine, or iced water just to be you—in all of your brokenness and longing?
Too much of life is lived on the surface. There is more to each of us—and the part of the world we inhabit—than meets the eye. There is a great deal below the surface. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of our conversations, our time with fellow human beings—Christian or otherwise—reflected this?