“Love and company,” said Bear, “are the adornments that change everything.”
These are the words from a beloved dog, as imagined or otherwise interpreted by poet Mary Oliver (Dog Songs, p 13). A simple statement — endearing and enduring — it speaks to what I imagine we all long for. It speaks to that which comforts, heals and feeds us.
This past week, I told a group of fellow chaplain-types that I have always felt like a freak of nature. They seemed stunned by this admission. I explained that I tend to use hyperbole to make a point but that this feeling is something that resides deep within me, that sense of never quite fitting in, of always being an oddball or misfit.
God knit me together for better or worse, and I know he is constantly knitting together the story of my life, of our lives in him.
“We will love you until you can love yourself” is what newcomers to 12-Step communities are likely to hear. If they are to have half a chance, they must learn quickly that the only way to encounter transformative love is through entering into community. They must become willing to be vulnerable enough to admit “I need help.”
No matter who we are or where we come from, we all need a place where we can relax and feel safe. Each Sunday, when our “church without walls” community gathers for worship, we begin by reciting together these borrowed words: “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith, you are welcome here.”
We come together – churched and unchurched, poor and affluent, addicted and recovering – and open ourselves to the healing, holy spirit of God. We share communion and a meal, trusting that God is with is, ready to knit a new story for our lives.
Tomorrow, our bishop will worship with us. He will bless special crosses that we will offer as a reminder to each person present that they are blessed and cherished, that they have a community where they are loved and belong. And that can change everything.