in context

The other day I accidentally visited the church I left in 1999. Lately I've been driving a relative to doctor appointments, and we were out and about after a nice lunch together. There was a half-hour wait for the next appointment, and we both needed a bathroom, but the doctor's office was closed for lunch. So, there, voila, across the street, was the church I used to go to. They had a bathroom.

I went to the church office and saw two women I used to know. They smiled and seemed genuinely happy to see me. I explained our situation and asked about using their restrooms, and the women said, sure, go ahead. Then they went back to their computers. Neither of them looked up again when my relative and I passed their window coming and going.

I had a familiar pang of emotion. Often, attending that church, I felt like the people treated me in such a manner -- they didn't look up at me in reassurance at times I considered it would have been nice for them to do so. Around that group, I felt rather ignored and small.

Later the other day, I reconsidered my reaction. Maybe there was a fuller context to try to examine.

I have learned, from the best teachers over my life's decades, that context is king. We long for fullness. No one gets a full picture of reality in this life, but each of us was implanted with the desire to know, to apprehend. Context is the (mostly invisible to others) stuff surrounding what we say, what we do. It's also the "stuff," or the reality, surrounding what God says and does. Reality is God's business. No one knows why God does what He does in reality without understanding, without a fuller picture of the context. Only God can give that fuller picture.

How does God give a person more fullness? I can, of course, only speak for myself. If I didn't believe God "revealed Himself to men," I would be a very different person living a very different life. My children wouldn't have been born. As I said to someone recently, "I would so be a worldly academic." By implication, from what I have seen of worldly academics, I would no longer believe God exists. I might go through the motions of believing; I might belong to a "faith community." But the context of my existence would probably not really include a Creator who is a Person and who might reveal Himself to men, to me.

To assimilate the inexhaustible depths of life in Christ requires our whole strength, the unremitting effort of a lifetime. ~Fr. Sophrony SarovThe past year has given me what I consider glimmers of a fuller picture of God's context. From this small awakening, as I see it, a bit of creative understanding might be starting to emerge. Regarding the church office women, maybe they weren't ignoring my relative and me. Maybe, out of deferential kindness, they were leaving us be. Maybe they were meditatively working for the Lord, to their fullest.

Pondering this my brain says, don't forget that back when you went to their church, you saw other things that helped inform your suspicion that people like these women didn't care about you.

And then from a new context I conclude, so what? What if I'm supposed to, what if I'm now allowed to, give a person a creative context, a view toward the longing each of us has for God, for Christ, for bowing to His longings and His love? Maybe this is what love demands. Maybe I would rather have people, in various sorts of contexts, do so unto me.


Cherie said…
Interesting post. It's been my experience that most of the time, when I feel ignored such as you did, it really is my own perspective and not a real shunning. Life can be tedious and hard for all of us and we often aren't aware that we wear our tension on our faces and through our neglect of others. Also, I've learned not to wait for others to acknowledge me, but to acknowledge them first, to go out of my way to give them some cheer. Most everyone could use a kind word, a sincere smile, a hug. It's just another take on giving 'creative context'...How can I make that person's day brighter? rather than 'Do they see me?', 'Do they like me?' Once a mind gets out of the 'what's in it for me' mentality, well, life opens up. Sounds like you are experiencing that, Deanna, bit by bit.. Yay!
Deanna said…
Thanks, Cherie. We're on the same page. Humanity is quite an adventurous place, and I'm liking the journey in these contexts. Appreciating your insights!
Dee Ready said…
Dear Deanna,
I think Cherie has summed up an approach to others that leads to a greater understanding of what connects us and binds us together. I try to remember that I haven't walked in the shoes of the Other and so I don't know her or his life and all its tragedies, great and small. Nor do I know the weariness of that person's life or the joys. So I must resist judging the why or wherefore of any response that comes from someone with whom I interact. I must be open to the possibilities of others and to my own possibilities. I applaud your breaking up your own sensibilities and looking at life in a new way.

Deanna said…
Dee, thank you, also. It's always been easier for me to see the need for these understandings in others, because they will involve another experience than my own. Funny how my own situation can be foggier, somehow, most days...
Verna Wilder said…
This is an interesting post, Deanna. You've got me thinking about what it means to believe in God - or a god - and how we take that into our lives, into our everyday context. Do you know about James P. Carse, the writer and former professor of the history and literature of religion at New York University? I found him by accident many years ago at the Boulder Book Store, and I was blown away by his writing and the way he wonders about the wonders of life. My favorite is his collection, Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience." He says he doesn't believe in God, and because his writing so clearly says that he does "believe," I wonder what he considers to be God? I'll have to read more of his work. I don't believe in the God of the various churches I've tried, but I know there is something much bigger going on than my brain is able to conceive. And I find comfort in that.

I love your writing and musing, Deanna. Thank you.
Deanna said…
Verna, I find it interesting, too, to see how things that smack of belief enter and dwell in our different lives. Something bigger going on, indeed. :o)