By Krista Bowman
It is Ash Wednesday, and we are gathered together in the living room, talking about faith and life, snuggly under blankets, wrapped up in warmth. Indeed, there is a spirit of love and gladness that warms our hearts just as the tea we sip warms our bodies…
At the beginning of the JVC year, Sarah, Louise and I were glad to be together and to get to know one another, but to some degree, we were still strangers. We talked and had meals together, shared stories and laughs, but still didn’t really know each other. But over these past months of experiencing many simple, everyday, and even extraordinary moments together, we have built up a foundation of mutual trust and ease with one another that makes our house truly feel like a home, a community.
On Ash Wednesday, I got to thinking about the many fantastic memories we have been creating: evenings of hosting friends and family, strangers becoming friends around our dining table; a hectic and busy couple of days of hosting last minute guests with many young children and not a great deal of space (oh my!); and quiet moments like this one on Ash Wednesday, of honest conversations that open up hearts and minds to share thoughts, insights, struggles, and vulnerabilities. These memories are becoming all the more poignant over time because of the relationship that is growing between us—we know and trust one another—and because these moments are always brightened with much laughter.
As humans, I believe being in communion with others is something we crave and long for. In community, we experience the opportunity to journey through life with people, sharing many small experiences together that grow into the relationships we love. And community is not just about journeying together with people who are like us, necessarily, but people who are different, too, people who we wouldn’t always choose as friends but who become meaningful connections and sources of blessing in, perhaps, unexpected ways.
Sarah, Louise and I didn’t exactly “choose” one another as friends would when we moved into this house together; instead, we chose the opportunity to create community together by intentionally journeying with one another. And over time, that seed of intention—grown and matured over weeks and months of the watering and nourishment of all of these shared moments of conversation, words of encouragement, expressions of thankfulness, demonstrations of trust and respect, sharing of faith and praying together—have blossomed into a relationship that has led to moments like this Ash Wednesday was, an experience of such rich communion and beauty. The joy of just being together.
While joy may not be what one would typically think of on Ash Wednesday, as I sat in the living room that night it actually seemed quite fitting. Feeling joy about being together reminds me of my position in creation as a human, crafted of dust by our loving God and so needing of so much nourishment from relationships outside myself. It is good to remember our limited human capacity and the need for the nurturance and presence of others, the need for the spirit of God who lives in us. Sitting with these women with such love for them reminds me that I am made to be in right relation with the people and aspects of creation around me, and when I am, that it is very, very good; a moment to cherish and be thankful for.
Recognizing this goodness means also recognizing the need for cultivating, restoring, and renewing right relationships in life. Even as I see my need for relationship and celebrate its realization, I see also that I have harmed, not sowed for life but instead for death and evil, distorted relationship rather than edified it.
This is the beauty of humility, the beauty of Ash Wednesday, the beauty of intentional community and relationships of fidelity. We can live in the tension of the awareness of imperfection while also bearing a thankful, grateful, cherishing heart that celebrates the abundant goodness that resides within these very same moments. And isn’t it good to share in this with others on the journey.
“A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.”
? Jean Vanier,