Last night I returned to husbandface’s shed at 6pm and started another term of spiritual direction training. I love this group of people who are journeying together through these three years of starting to learn the art of providing space for people to encounter God. I love how the simple magic of people showing up, being vulnerable and open in a atmosphere of love and acceptance creates deep love for each other. Maybe it’s not magic, maybe it’s something to do with Spirit and this God who weaves around us as we talk and listen. Anyway I wrote this to honour those people and our times together:
We used to rock up in a room, weaving through the dark streets of London, dodging commuters, fighting against the flow of people going home. We used to grab food as we walked, Leon, Waitrose, Chipotle, Marks and Spencer sandwiches, one person always brought food from home. We used to walk up the narrow street to the big brown wooden door, knock loud and be let in from the cold, make tea, catch up and talk about how our days had been. We used to queue upstairs for the loo, quietly browse the library, find a quiet spot before deep reflection. We used to sit in a circle, physical presence, finding the same seat, catching the eye of someone across the room. We used to lean in to hear each other over the noise, we used to be together physically, aware of body language, aware of the space and energy each other had.
We now rock up on a screen, faces blinking in across the course of 10 minutes. Waves, half snatched conversations, blank faces, zoom faces, trying to engage, smile, be aware of each other. We look at boxes and wish we could instead walk across a room and sit and say hello, or glance and raise and eyebrow to acknowledge we are glad to be with each other. Now we stare at the screen and try to see through it into each other. I stare at someone wondering if she knows I’m staring at her, smiling for her or whether such nuance is lost in a sea of faces.
We still want to engage, one person sticks their thumbs up lots and leans forward smiling, we become animated on request, we stick our hands up and try to speak. We are on mute, always someone is on mute, we laugh at the same old zoom annoyances. We freeze mid crucial sentence, and then have to start all over again. We get blindfolded and put into breakout rooms unaware of who we will be with until, ahh it’s you. We practise in this blinkered environment, lots of our senses on mute as we try and sense, notice, feel and wonder.
We find it surprising how much love you can still feel on a screen, surprising how much depth and empathy you can feel through distance, surprised at how much connection is possible in such strangeness. The ache of not being with each other is real but so are the precious drops of communication we do have, the look, the silent holding presence, the wonder of love as people share their souls with each other.
I went out for a walk this morning on the hills and couldn’t stop grinning at the ways God is at work in this group of people I meet with each Wednesday night. At the ways that always, always it works: experiencing someone sharing their soul in a real way means I am full of love for them. Observing someone direct someone else with loving presence means I too catch something of that loving presence and means I can love myself more wholly and love that person more fully.
I love that in the beginning we turned up in a room together, with all our preformed judgements, instant reactions of who we might connect with and then the simple wondrous act of hearing our real stories shared in a place of love and acceptance each week has meant that these judgements fall away. It might just be me, but I feel like our instant reactions have changed, don’t mean much anymore, and this insane big love for each other grows. I am in awe of this process. It’s beautiful and wondrous and I want to always be part of such spaces. I love that these are the ways of our God, this big picture all encompassing freeing love. I love that these are the ways to flourish as a human.