I don't think there's a season in the church year that has a more profound presence in my life than Lent. No matter what state of mind I might be in as the season approaches, no matter how late or how early it comes, there is something about this season, and how I enter it that always seems to be a little unexpected, and definitely chock full of what we called in massage school, "Learning Experiences." This time is no different.
In my previous entry, I put up the Trinity icon by Rublev. The word that comes to my mind when staring into that image is "connection." The more I contemplated that "connection" and the interconnectedness of the Trinitarian nature of our God as captured in that image, the more I began to think about the relationships I have with family, friends, clients, church members, well...everyone. I realized that, lately, I have felt at times walled off from having a connection to people, and I think that has caused me to suffer.
I began to mitigate for this disconnect with Shrove Tuesday. I made the trip to my church in Thomasville, dealing with the frustrations of stop-and-go traffic for several miles up 319 to spend the time with my church family. When I got there, most of the tables were already filled, but there was still space at the one with a couple of adults and five very rambunctious children. Anyone who knows me is aware that my decision to not have children is intentional. It's not that I don't like kids; I just don't want the responsibility of trying to raise them. Children always seem generally afraid of me. I figure I must look ominous or strange to them because I am a very tall woman with very short hair and broad shoulders. Adults often times can't discern that I'm biologically a woman because I dress and appear more masculine, so kids being bewildered is something I have just come to expect and don't take personally. These children, with the exception of the baby, were up and down and all-around throughout the dinner, keeping their great-grandmother on the move as well. When it was time to go, great-grandmom discovered she'd locked herself out of her truck. Now what? The kids were squirming, and she had to wait for another family member to come to the rescue.
I may not be the best with kids, but I am an aunt, and I greatly enjoyed the years my niece and nephew were young children because I could invent all kinds of scenarios with them and basically do improv. I noticed the three boys of this quintet had toy trucks and cars. Their great grandmother had told them to stay in their seats, something I thought was never going to happen given all that I had seen happening. So, "crazy Aunt Sue" decided to make an appearance. I got one of the boys to give up a truck to me.
"OK, guys, here's the game: I'm going to send this truck across the table, and you have to stop it before it goes off the table. And the rule is: You can't get outta your seat!" The boys grinned and nodded.
"Vroom! Vroom!" I started with rolling the truck back and forth as if it was winding up to go into action. The boys focused intently on the truck, and as it rolled across the plastic table top, they took their respective vehicles and smashed it with much glee. Then they sent it back across, and I snagged it before it could leave the table. Their older sister decided she wanted in on this and announced that she and I were a team. And we played this way for about 15 to 20 minutes, allowing great grandmom the chance to keep her eyes out on the two youngest and their rescuer. By the end of the evening, I could tell that these kids who had always looked at me with a vague suspicion now were seeing me as "one of them." A barrier had come down to let the light of Christ shine between us.
Unfortunately, playing with the children meant that I had missed my EfM member who was waiting for me to deliver her books to her. I looked up her address, which wasn't far from the church, and drove over to knock on the door. She was delighted to have the personal service and asked if I wanted to stay a moment and have some tea. Normally, the introverted person that I am, I would have come up with a reason why I couldn't possibly stay. Given that Tallahassee is about a 50-minute drive to the south it wouldn't have been unreasonable for me to want to get home. But I thought I had no real rush to get back, and this was such a hospitable offer, that I could make the time. And so I did. We enjoyed some orange-spiced tea and conversation which ranged over shared stories of church experiences and our respective family lives. By the end of the evening visit, we remarked that while both of us had been together and sitting with each other in choir neither of us really knew the other very well. As I drove home, I considered how good and energized I was feeling from having had the time with a member of this church family that I'm part of in Georgia, and playing with children in the parish hall. And a little piece (or maybe a big piece) of my Lenten discipline came into focus.
I needed to cut back on the time I spend on the social media time suck called Facebook. I had become programmed to tune into FB almost from the instant my eyes opened in the morning to when I put my head down at night. It's become the crutch for how I connect with people...without really connecting with them. No eye contact. No silences. And no way to discern body language, especially if the person's profile picture is of their dog. Hitting "like" on a post had replaced actually conversing about a topic. It's just so much easier to click a "like" than to actually go experience what the person is advertising or discuss it any further.
Lately, with the presidential political season heating up, I have found myself not having conversations but arguments with people. (Are Americans memories so short? Do they really always believe the hype without looking for the substance?) Such encounters online were leaving me bitter. And my conversational skills were suffering. I attended Ash Wednesday, received the mark of the smudgy cross on my forehead, and, upon exiting the church, I removed the Facebook app from my iPhone and later my iPad. I can still get on FB from a laptop or through the web, but that takes more work and effort. I am not pledging not to go on and lurk and post, but I am curtailing my activity and the absence of ease of having the app is so far working.
I hope this leads to improving my relationships. And to those who miss my many posts, I'll be back, but perhaps with a new appreciation for how much I prefer your personal connection rather than the virtual.