On Becoming Human (Again)

- Jen Wise

I’ve cried at some pretty ridiculous things: ducklings crossing the road (the world wasn’t meant to be a dangerous place for ducklings!), a squirrel at my door (see explanation here!), or a video of Justin Bieber as a kid (he was so innocent!). Catch me in the right moment and it may not take much for the water-works to begin. 

Even if there are no tears, I think we all experience these moments when we’re feeling especially sensitive to the world around us. We all have days when something quite ordinary reminds our heart of its own existence. 

Still, this isn’t most days. Most days we zoom along just trying to make our deadlines, cross off our to-dos, and reach the couch-and-glass-of-wine at the end of the ride. 

It’s not all our fault. The pressure to perform in every single area of life can be overwhelming. We need to be successful in work, continue our education, exercise religiously, prepare healthy meals, maintain a beautiful home, volunteer at church/school/community events, keep up hobbies, play a sport, and DIY. There are activities, responsibilities, and commitments at every turn – and if you have kids you may as well just triple those. 

For some of us, even if we shake the outside pressures, our phase of life or circumstances mean that our days have little down time. 

Life is just full. Yet to have a full life we may need to come up for air. We may need to slow down to see the people around us, to feel our own hearts. 

This past year, after a particularly busy season for me and my husband, we did something odd: we stopped running and sat still. Literally. It was a Friday evening and we pulled our patio table down to the sidewalk. We stacked it high with wine glasses and bottles. A couple neighbors added to the mix and we just relaxed. We all needed it. 

Within a few hours our group had doubled and tripled. People dragged chairs over from porches and added to the mix of beverages. We talked, we shared stories, we laughed, we cried (ok, probably just me on the crying), we ordered take out. We were reminded of the sacred humanity in each other. We were reminded of our own. 

Sometimes weeks and months – even years for some – go by as we hurry through our routine, attending to the urgent everyday needs. It’s so easy to lose yourself, to forget that you have a heart and a soul. It’s even easier to do this to those around you. When you slow down and take the time to just be, and be with, your heart begins to beat again. And what do you know? It’s been there all along.

Community does that.

Community reminds us that you’re not just the man who sits on his porch and smokes. You’re not just that woman who is exhausted and tense, crushed by unfair circumstances. He’s not just that guy who drives the VW and plays guitar. I’m not just that girl who darts in and out carrying bags of groceries and work stuff and gym stuff and kid stuff and who knows what else.

We hear one another. We see one another. We acknowledge the deeply spiritual humanity in each one of us. We are conscious of our hearts, and we’re in this together.

Jen is a compassionate theologian, obsessive foodie, constant hostess and voracious reader. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (MA Theology). Jen lives with her husband and their two sons in Philadelphia's Main Line neighborhoods. Catch up with her on twitter @jenlwise.