When I first moved back to Waco, I participated in an unintentional experiment. I had just come out of a place where I walked closely with several friends on a path to loving Jesus and loving others in Boulder. My move back to Waco was intensely lonely. On top of the unwanted transition, I also became pregnant and was so sick that I spent all day every day clinging to the toilet wishing I was dead.
So it was in this season of life that I first experienced the absence of fellow disciples. I realized that I’d never really valued the place of the Body of Jesus until I went without. Turns out, I need people in order to make eye contact with God.
I need people, yes—but not just warm bodies. I need their stories. I need to hear how others are hearing from God, connecting with God, learning with God and experiencing his love. It is through these stories, through the roller coasters others are riding that I remember who I was created to be. As I look at the faith of those surrounding me, I remember who I want to be. I remember how I want to live, what I want to think about, and who I want to love. I remember how hungry I actually am for the things of God.
I think we’ve misunderstood hungering for God as something we have to conjure up. We don’t feel the longing for God, so it must have slipped out—we must have discarded it and we need something new to replace it. But what if were created with the hunger? What if a hunger for God is not something to obtain but something to uncover? What if it is already in us and we just need people to help us remember where it is?
This is the function of the Body. They point to Jesus in us and around us. Bonhoeffer says that there will inevitably be times when I need Jesus in you because I’m too disconnected from Jesus in me. This is what others do for us—people are collections of stories that loudly proclaim the active work of God. They remind us of God’s pursuit of our lives, through song, through work, through frustration and sadness. We see ourselves in the photographs of others. We hear our story in their stories. We get back in touch with the reality that we are people who want God. We are people who hunger for the all-consuming Love. We just need to peel back the layers of busyness, the layers of apathy and guilt that are blocking us from the reality of our hearts.
There are parts of us that on any given day do not want God. There are parts of us that do not have an appetite for the things of the Kingdom. But the deepest part of us, the place where we are most ourselves, this is the real us who wants communion with God. It is to this part of us that God is always appealing. God comes to us with gentle reminders not of who we were, but who we are. He speaks to the part of us that longs for the rest that comes from being who we were created to be.
My unintentional isolation experiment is behind me. I’ve learned why God calls us not only to himself, but to one another. Flying solo is easier at first. There’s no one you have to show grace and forgiveness to, no one to let you down, no one to ask the hard questions. But the hidden life, the alienated life is ultimately a dying, not a living.
Each person who bears the image of God is an invitation. Through each carrier of the life of Christ, God invites us to reclaim what is already ours as people who are hungry for God. Each story, each word we hear from pulpits and podcasts and coffee shops and moms groups have the potential to unearth the deepest parts of us—the parts of us that want God more than life.