On our way to our table for three, we have already begun our worship. We open the menus and we begin with praise – sharing stories from the latest happenings from the day or tales of the latest mishaps in ministry. We laugh and we nod in understanding. We order our drinks, place our lunch orders, turn in the menus, and move into confession.
Taking turns, we look to one another and ask – “So, how are you doing?” If the first attempt does not open the floodgate, we entertain the response and then prod further with another, “how are you really doing?” Slowly and carefully, one will unpack the latest stresses, fears, and wonders of our lives. The two listening will lean in and remain quiet. Nodding their heads, they hold the words and feelings gently.
Avoiding the traps of advice or dismissal or belittling, we move into proclamation. We seek to shed light on the darkness of our confessions. We try to drain the power of the gremlins that too often rule our thoughts. We ask questions. We look for where hope is growing. We hold in our hands the grief of one another. We mourn our inability to grant another’s dream or fix another’s brokenness. When we cannot find the words, we just sigh.
Once all are heard, once the meal has come and gone and the waiting staff persistently asks if we need anything else, we move into response. We walk away carrying the joys and fears of one another and in doing so, we are made whole. We are now more in touch with the humanity of one another and the divinity of the God who unites us. Our stories become interwoven.
Over the past four years, these times together have formed and reformed our theology and our understanding of what it is to live this life. We have become better friends, better spouses, better parents, and better ministers. We have weathered the ups and downs of ministry, marriage, pregnancy, parenthood, loss, joyous milestones and heartbreaking ones.
Like quail in the wilderness, God provides not always what we want but instead enough for the journey ahead. There have been times when our response of encouragement and shared grief have seemed too little and too inconsequential. We have yearned for the ability to change what is or to control what will be. In those moments, we remind each other that we may not be able to provide the tangible answers to our prayers but we are an answer to the great prayer for love, wholeness, and companionship. For the gift of “worship that is our very lives” in friendship, I give thanks.