Fourth of five parts begun on June 23, 2005The Wounds of Separation
But we, brethren, having been bereft of you for a short while–in person, not in spirit — were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.
~~Paul, to the Thessalonians
Belonging is the great joy of community, but it carries the risk of pain, the pain of separation. You can hear it in Paul’s writing over and over again, poignantly in his letter to the church in Thessalonica, desperately in his last correspondence to Timothy, his beloved partner in Christ.
To Timothy he wrote, “Make every effort to come to me soon, for Demas has deserted me. Only Luke is with me. Come before winter” For Paul, the winter of his heart had already tightened its icy grip. Loneliness had overtaken him. Memories of the faces of those with whom he had shared the Lord’s Table were all he had left. They both comforted and haunted him; both healed and wounded. Separation is the changing of the season of relationship. Being separated awakens the deepest fondness, and the most profound regret in the hearts of those who have taken the risk of relationship. Being a part of something makes painful being apart from it.
It should come as no surprise that the bonds of love are painful. That was how it was with the Master who gave His life out of love for human beings. Deep love always cuts deeply.
My own silliness makes the point. When Super Glue first came on the market, I had no idea of the strength of the stuff. Impulsively, I put a drop on my index finger and grabbed the finger of my unsuspecting wife. We were instantly fused! No twisting, prying or pulling would release the hold of the glue that bonded us. Together (that was, after all, our only option) we made our way to the place where the razor blades were kept so I could carefully cut us apart. Because it was my foolishness that caused our dilemma, I made sure that it was my flesh that suffered the cutting.
The bonds that are the evidence of love in the body of Christ are like that. Once the promise of growing relationship becomes an authentic bond, separation only comes at the expense of a piece of the heart. The more people that come and go from among us the more acutely aware I become that the desire for relationship is intensifying. Perhaps, finally, love is awakening my heart. That is why it hurts.
The corporate name of our home church network is, “The Summit Fellowships.” It is nothing. The name is no more the church than a dot on a road map is a city. Nevertheless, some have left us and declared they are leaving “Summit,” meaning they are leaving an institution. This, I presume, is a way of making separation easier because institutions don’t bleed, people do. Those who yearn for relationship will suffer a wound when it vanishes. Theresa of Avila said, “I have no defense against affection.” Thus, as we learn what it is to be the church, we will learn what it is to be wounded.