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The Sidelines: Seeking Sacred Community

The world is changing faster than I can comfortably grow old, and that sometimes freaks me out. I'm riding out the countdown, or should I say the run-up, to my fortieth birthday, or what is commonly called my fortieth Earth Day! I'm excited about it, for no other reason than in this age-obsessed culture, forty is a big deal. Even if forty turns out to be exactly the same as thirty-nine, I still feel like I'm aging, and not at a normal rate. It feels exponentially faster than I believe it ought.

I particularly sense it whenever the world (which has now expanded beyond anything I can properly digest) asks, or in some cases, demands that I log in, sign up, and create a password to participate in ordinary life. I cringe just a little bit every time, because there is a part of me that resents this strange new path to community and belonging. With every year that passes, I find myself increasingly on the sidelines, contemplating whether I can jump fast enough, far enough and high enough to catch a ride on whatever the heck it is that's whooshing by me with all the cool people on it. Sure it's only a fad, an app, a mannequin challenge, a cool meme, or the latest online whatever, but it’s where the people are. This is where the next generation is finding their networks, their groupings, their communities. But then I think, nah, I think I'm just too old for all of this. That's the best way to describe how rapid, random change makes me feel, "too old for all of this". Too old, and sometimes, afraid, but I jump. And many times, the ride on whatever that thing is, is fun and light and pretty amazing, but I don’t ever long for it.

I long for closeness, dinners, laughter and love. I long for to be remembered, desired, needed. I long to be felt, to be touched, to give pleasure, to give life to things that are dying and hope to ones who are falling. This is the Divine in me, the same thing that is in you. This is the essence of being one body, one people, wrought and bound through joys and sadness, clinging to one another in Christ. Sacred community.

My mother, who is sprightly at sixty-six, is no longer moved by magical birthday numbers like forty. She does not know about the ice bucket challenge, or what a Loom is. She signs up for nothing, ever, and she does not care. She sees the chasm growing between herself and the generation right before her, she’s on the sidelines too; but unlike me, she'll never jump on board. Instead she waits for us to get tired, to get dizzy, to hurl magnificently into the wind, spraying everyone within earshot with our delirious rants and cries of loneliness. And then, perhaps, we get off the thing, whatever it is, for a minute and she'll be there. Soon enough, I’ll be there too, with a book and a cup of tea, to listen intently and to share in what is meaningful, to remind anyone who will stop to for a while that life is not meant to ‘whoosh by’, and there will always be someone on the sidelines to rest with for a while.

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