I am back in New Jersey, living in Pennsauken which is just outside of Camden. It isn't as "dangerous" but it has its own problems. I walked around the last few days and explored the neighborhood and also visited some of my old haunts in between organizing my bedroom. It feels really good to be back here and seeing my friends and neighbors again.
In Mission Year, I learned how to feel. I know that sounds weird but it is true. I became much more self-aware and learned to pay attention to what my heart was feeling rather than just ignoring it for the sake of "keeping it together." This last month I have felt like I've been in a limbo. I've wanted to feel things as acutely as I felt them during Mission Year but sometimes things just got so busy that I reverted to ignoring again. I miss having people around me who challenged that, it made it easier. Now I have to learn to ask those questions myself or look for them where they aren't so easily found.
Last night was a really good night for me even though I ended it in tears. Lindsay and Ra, two of the other team captains from MY, came over to visit. Actually, they came over to help me organize my classroom but about 10 minutes into their being here I knew that wasn't going to happen so we went back to the house where there is air conditioner. We visited for a while and they met Marilus who kept saying, "I'm just going to tell this one more story and then I'm going to watch my show which I'm missing right now!" She's funny. Then we baked some very experimental cookies from just whatever we found in the house which turned out okay considering. We could probably tweek our recipe a bit and then they'd be worth sharing. We ate them. Afterward, I responded to an email I got from Caz. She asked me how my heart was doing; what made it smile and what made it tight. I sent her a very lengthy response (because I write novels) and realized how much what Marilus and Sheila said is true. Caz is a release for me. With her, more than anyone else, I am able to just release whatever is bottled up inside of me even if it is just in responding to an email. It is the need that she fulfills in me.
I responded to her email in tears of relief more than anything that I was finally facing the hard stuff I've been avoiding. And I came to a very awesome realization about God and community. They say that God fills all our needs. I realized how that works last night in the context of community. Ra and Lindsay filled my need for laughter, understanding, and meaningful conversation. Marilus fills my need to be challenged and talked to. Caz fills my need to release and notice my feelings by asking the right questions. But ultimately, there is no Ra, Lindsay, Marilus, or Caz. There is only God, living in each of them and fulfilling my needs through human hands. Henri Nouwen says, "You have to move gradually from crying outward - crying out for people who you think can fulfill your needs - to crying inward to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community. No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love."
I think I have spent much of my life searching for that one person that can fulfill all my needs. But I realized last night that I will never find that. I will find my needs met "incarnate in the humanity of those who love me in community." That is how God will fill me. I think in my head, I always knew that. I love and find such joy in those moments when my heart finally catches up with my head. That was where my tears came from, in experiencing the joy of God's love in community last night.