An Inextinguishable Source of Unity

After seeing his friends, Massimo is left “with a bigger desire, and a simple prayer to learn to recognize Him wherever I am, whomever I’m with.”

What do a stay-at-home mom of five, a literature college professor, an IT engineer, a medical imaging specialist, a strategy consultant, and an accounting professor have in common? If any combination of these walked into a bar, it would make for either a very underwhelming joke, or for several awkward conversations, probably about the weather.

But that’s not it: recently, my family had the opportunity to spend some time with “old friends” from Chicago, which we left about two years ago for new jobs in Philly. First we spent a weekend in West Maryland with our friends who moved to Ohio, and then we had our other friends from Chicago come visit our house for Thanksgiving.

The similarity between these two instances were remarkable. We just wanted to spend some time with our friends, have our children maintain their friendships, and us adults catch up. Turns out catching up wasn’t really what we got: sure, we did get some broad-strokes updates on what each has been up to, but I don’t really know that much more about anyone’s daily life over the past year.

What I did get, on both occasions, was an undeniable experience of familiarity and immediacy, as if these days together were no different from the weekly get-togethers from back when we lived close to each other. Our kids led the way, restarting play as if they’d put down the toy the night before, but even among us adults, there were no awkward pauses, or a feel-out timing to test whether we’re still friends.

We are still friends, and not because we do a particularly good job at staying in touch while far away: we are still friends because our lives are tied to an inextinguishable source of unity which shatters the boundaries of space and time and holds us together. It is You, Christ, who allows us to cut through the dust and look together at what’s keeping us up at night or giving us rest. It is You who help us watch our children with hope and not fear, look at the glitches in our marriages with tenderness and not anger (or, I guess, a less inordinate amount of anger), embrace whatever cross we’re carrying with hope.

I am very aware of my own limitations (and my wife’s, and my friends’ too!) but for once that was not an obstacle in recognizing a Presence among us, in calling Christ by name and thanking Him for that unbelievable gift of unity. And when it was time to get back to our own homes, I was not left with the far-too-familiar bittersweet sensation of missing out by not living close to our friends: I was left with a bigger desire, and a simple prayer to learn to recognize Him wherever I am, whomever I’m with.

Massimo, Philadelphia, PA