It all started as a challenge from Father God to release and grieve some unrequited relational wounds. I set before myself a healing year and planned to paint 10 grief paintings as a way of processing, feeling, and releasing these wounds through my safe haven with Him, painting. I have been working a year on this one particular piece featured in this blog. It is an artistic prayer around my desire for a divinely led sisterhood and community.
I know I am looking to be able to live my adult life tethered to people I trust, have weathered some battles with, and have gleaned wisdom from. Through this painting, I have seen the topic of relationships become a layered map of my own heart ache, limitations, and joy.
I think it is the single greatest gift the Lord has given me to be able to keep in pursuit of something just beyond my reach. I think this particular desire, sisterhood, is one of those longings Donald Miller suggests in his book, Scary Close, that we acknowledge and live comfortably within the longing, knowing we are all in the same situation. I don’t know if I want to believe the idea we have to wait for Heaven. I want to believe we get divine connections in this life. Yet, even if we get those glimpses, there are limitations due to our world and even our own bodies. Things like time and energy can fail us whether we mean them to or not!
The gift of remaining in pursuit with an open and hopeful heart is something I had to cultivate. It was in the first layers of this painting I realised something the Lord wanted to show me that allowed me to unmask a culprit and clean out the cobwebs of my metaphoric life house in which every relationship has its own room. In order to do this I have had to recover and relive a lot of memories with Jesus. Through the process, learning how to guard my heart against disappointed hope and to remain optimistic has been a real game changer. I also heard not to let your grieving over a disappointment grow into depression, then offense, and finally manifest as bitterness. Bitter roots divide and isolate.
Part of what I long for in my innermost communal ring is the type of people who are not afraid to upset me, and when they do, are willing to reconnect with me rather than write me off. The type of neighbors who will keep knocking rather than build up a fence and make friends with another neighbor.
I made friends with one of these sorts of people nearly a decade ago now. I have been known to roll my eyes and playfully throw things at this person. We genuinely disagree on some things, and our backgrounds, ages, passports, and upbringing are entirely different so that makes sense. I trust this friend in another place and in another stage of life to tell me the truth, to call me out on my crazy days, and to help affirm me when I make good but hard decisions. As a result, that friend is the one I call in a crisis. It is because even in leaving the place where we met and the context of our friendship, this person kept knocking and never built a fence up. All I know is that I never once felt ashamed or afraid to bring the unpleasant things about myself to this person. I have even asked this person if they are tired of me yet and they have told me I am irreplaceable. (This friend is not my husband or family relation for those who don’t think it can happen outside of those terms!) This is one of those glimpses of divine alignment. Yet…this person that volunteered for this Heavenly post is a man. Perhaps I need to expand my meaning of ‘sisterhood’ to something more inclusive!
Maybe the next right question for me to be asking is not where this sisterhood is, but who I need to be to grow where I’ve already made stakes in the ground. What if the reward of a quality relationship is the Lord’s blessing? If I want this, I need to be the person who keeps knocking to mend the rupture of trust when I have disappointed someone, to learn how to keep my fence walls down, and become a knocking neighbor.
In reading the book The Joy Switch, by Chris Coursey, I had to do an exercise of writing a list of people that relationally inspire me. One person I chose because they draw people into them and create comfortable amiability amongst strangers. One person I chose because they do fun things and people want to come along. The last person I chose is intentional, no matter what I feel pursued by the way she reaches out to me- living halfway across the US! This list, they suggest you take a look at how and why it connects with your heart. My heart connects with these people because I’ve worked in coffee for a good decade of my life and hospitality and honor are in my bones. A well crafted, intentional connection is just as lovely as a 10 hours of quality time for me. Intention is the key.
As a goal, I’ve decided to send out to my network of women and beyond that, the one’s God put in mind some well crafted connection moments. I am intentional too. Perhaps in focusing on the giving and the becoming, I am renovating that same spiritual house with all it’s relational rooms and giving it a fresh yellow coat of sunshine paint. In other words, by giving, maybe those far away neighbors will feel a little closer. Maybe by giving I will begin the transformation into being the very thing I want.
As I am in process with this word community and it’s relationships, my hope within writing this blog and finishing my painting is to extend an invitation, a beam of light to those searching too. For now, I accept all the challenges that come with being in the process holding onto that grace gift of continuing the pursuit in comfortable longing with all you others who are searching. So, in the words of Fred Rogers, “Let’s be neighbors.”