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Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
United we stand, divided we fall.
And they shall call him Emmanuel – God with us.
There is within me a dawning awareness of, on the negative side, how much we in American culture are taught to fight alone; and on the positive side how utterly necessary it is for me to do anything that matters interdependently – with others.
Regarding that first point, about being conditioned as an American to assert my independence, to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, to be my own man or woman: all that is also reinforced by the particular expression of Christianity I have chosen to be a part of.
In the United Church of Christ, our polity is what we call congregational. That is to say, each setting of the Church, literally each congregation, is free to express a faith of its choosing without interference from anyone outside its boundaries. In our polity, we give high value to what we call our autonomy. We prize that independence.
Those are not bad things at all, either from their cultural or the religious origins.
However, they can also lead to some false assumptions about how to live and move in a world where, no matter how much we insist we are free from the influence of another or how much we must pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps – we will always be in need of someone else.
We are by nature interdependent creatures. We need each other.
There is a beautiful hymn sung often in the black church – I Need You to Survive? I believe that.
I believe that every single one of us thrives in relationship: with family, with friends, in community, with co-workers, with neighbors, with strangers newly met.
I am learning to unlearn the impulses endemic to the notions of American independence and United Church of Christ autonomy. I am practicing in more and more ways the arts of collaboration and cooperation and intersectionality and compromise and debate and dialogue and vulnerability and openness to new ways of thinking and looking at things.
God once took the name Emmanuel – God with us.
There is inherent to God’s way of being a withness that seems to be to be essential. Even in the very heart and nature of God is a withness that requires relationship in order to thrive, in order to be.
God with us abides, lingers, hovers, broods, sustains, guides, accompanies.
We would do well and be wise ourselves to learn to live in a withness kind of way. We who are created in the image and likeness of the God with us are by nature drawn into relationships that matter. We do not live in vacuums. We were meant to be together.
And so, as life unfolds for you, value those with whom you live, you work, you recreate. Cultivate that part of you that in humility receives the help, guidance, and wisdom of another without whom your own work would be incomplete.
We need you. We need each other. Without each other, life on this mortal coil is a tough slog. May there be company enough for you to thrive on this, your journey Into the Mystic.