Holden Village, are you aware just how much you frustrate me?
As individuals, collectively, in groups small and large, I find you annoying at times, petty in others, and still at other times, downright difficult. Sometimes it seems that God’s gift to you is to find new and creative ways to get under my skin.
And so, the experience I had one Prayer Around the Cross service of a few weeks ago was all the more surprising and, to some degree, disconcerting. I sat in the dark, pulsing with frustration: at dinner, you clapped after every name on the list of arrivals was read, when the instructions were very clearly to wait until all the names were read. Not to mention, you did not “enter in silence” to Prayer Around the Cross. In fact, it seemed that indoor voices, much less respectful silence, were way beyond your capabilities.
Anyway, there I sat, steeped in spite, and I looked around. Some people were praying, some standing around a kneeling figure, others just candlelit faces. And I realized: I wouldn’t want to be here with any other combination of people.
Now, before you think I’m going soft—I’m not. You’ll be happy to know that I still find you exquisitely annoying. Yet the thought remained: This is the group of people I want to be here with right now. If I could pick who came to Holden, I wouldn’t have picked all of you, maybe even any of you, and that would have messed it up. What I realized that night at Prayer Around the Cross was that despite my best intentions, I found myself living in relationship with this group of people.
Relationship in this sense is, I believe, a function of many things, but of high import is time, which is a function of commitment, a function of love. This is related to the concept of “like” versus “love.” “Like” is a superficial attraction, and believe me, there are many qualities of this group that I don’t particularly like. “Love,” however, is a more profound layer of relationship. It connotes a certain commitment despite impermanent struggles and temporary setbacks. “Love” is a commitment to continued, mutual growth. It is an overwhelming forward momentum, and it hinges on commitment. It requires time, it requires patience, it requires moving past “liking” each other or “disliking” each other. It requires a commitment to higher goals, to more noble ends. To love each other in community requires that we give each other the dignity of time and the honor of attention.
As we left Prayer Around the Cross those weeks ago, some left in silence, others did not, and even as I frowned in self-aggrandizing judgment, a part of me saw through that and realized I was there, with you, and I was, for the most part, happy about it.