Years ago, at a youth camp with my dear friend, John, I watched as he led his group in a visible expression of their connections with one another. One person started with a ball of string and tossed it to another while holding on to the end. Then she told the other what the connection meant to her; that person tossed it to another and so on until they had created a visible expression of the love they shared for and with one another.
It matters to feel connected.
One of the ways that we stay alive is trusting that those kinds of connections are still there and then days come when we need a more tangible sense of the tenacious tether of love: we need to see it, to say it, to step in and do what it takes to tighten the bonds and pull close together. Tonight is one of those nights for the very friend who showed his kids how to love each other. The story is his to tell, but the short version is his life took a hard turn this week and he is leaving the church where he has pastored without knowing what is coming next.
Another tangible expression of love, for me, has been Patty Griffin’s song, “When It Don’t Come Easy,” particularly for her stunning articulation of what love looks like:
if you break down I’ll drive out and find you
if you forget my love I’ll try to remind you
and stay by you when it don’t come easy
Tonight’s post, therefore, takes a more personal tone than usual in its focus. On the way to Bethlehem, I want my friend to know he is not alone. I want to remind myself of the same. The angel’s response to Joseph’s fear and questions about the unknown that lay ahead was to tell him what to name the child: Emmanuel, God with us.
Yes. And us with us, too.
Here’s is Justin McRoberts’ cover of Patty’s song.