The Growing Uncomfortable Edge

I am untethered, unmoored, unrecognizable to myself. My husband passed away in a hiking accident, and life is altered on every level.  I feel disoriented, trying to make sense of my disassembled life—like lying on the couch and watching TV sideways.  Everything has changed, and my brain has yet to catch up to it all.

I’m as vacant as a balloon. I’m like a helium balloon that used to be held, grasped tightly, and even cherished.  But now I’m floating far above the earth, with no hope of ever reuniting with my previous life. 

And then—much to my surprise—several hands reach up and grasp my string, pulling me down to them. These compassionate people offer me sanctuary, a place to set my feet. And as they invite me in, I feel the first stirrings of hope—a hope of belonging. 

And as they invite me in, I feel the first stirrings of hope—a hope of belonging.

This group of about eight people has been meeting together for Bible study for about a decade. They are tight, and well known to each other. Yet, they open their circle and let me in. I exhale as my bruised heart sinks into a soft place on the couch. Nothing is expected of me. They keep loving me, allowing me to simply sit there as long as I need. As I move through shock and the beginnings of grief, I gradually join in. We study the Bible and talk about our lives, the church, the world, and occasionally, politics. 

 Over time it becomes clear we are almost all of the same political party. There’s a comfort in validating each other’s perspectives on what’s happening in our broken world and imagining remedies to some of its ailments. Yes, I think, I must be seeing things accurately if we all agree.

And then, a few months later, I’m invited to a prayer group with some of the teachers from my daughter’s previous Christian school. They, too, have compassion for traumatized me and offer me a place in their circle. I know I’m still too isolated, and my prayer life is sputtering, practically gasping for air and new energy. So I say yes, and step into this group of warm, bright women—eager to connect at a new level.

At our first gathering, one of them shares a story of being at a faculty meeting for the public school where she serves as a librarian. She describes how uncomfortable it is for her when she realizes all the other voices in the room agree on a particular, very political, issue. She musters her courage and speaks up, knowing this will identify her as “other”—a lone voice speaking across what feels like an insurmountable political divide. 

At that moment, I look around the room and see all heads nodding in agreement, identifying with her predicament (and the political sentiments and party they represent.) And it becomes immediately clear that they assume I share their perspective and political leanings. 

I don’t take the path of “outing” myself. Instead, I decide that at some point—once they’ve had a chance to know me better—I would be willing to share my alternate perspective. But for now, that would only distance me. 

I’m with this group for a couple of years. And over time, many of the stereotypes I had unwittingly held of members of their political party fall away, reminding me of Paul’s words to the divided Corinthian church: “We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free.” (I Corinthians 12:13)

So I have a place in both of these groups. I’ve grown to love the members of my Bible Study group, as well as the women in my prayer circle. And as time goes on, I see how much these two groups have in common. Each is made up of very real people who share a deep faith, integrity, and a desire to learn and grow. 

Each group is very aware of the fracture lines crisscrossing our country, dividing and polarizing us. Each group sees our broken places, though they have very different approaches to addressing them.

Living in the midst of these two loving groups gave me safe places to heal, while my life gradually took shape again. But it’s a different shape than it was before—made better by the love that took me in.

Carrie Morris How
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