The change from life in utero to life outside the womb is a time of one of the greatest, most complex physiological changes in the life of a human being. The first 6 hours after birth are when the newborn’s respiratory and circulatory systems, her most important systems, become stable. This period is called transition.
But transitions don’t cease as life goes on. I’ve discovered that relationships, their forming and ending, provide endless opportunity for change. This time, the effect is not physiological; it is deeply psychological, emotional, and spiritual.
Each of my now three years at Calvin I’ve been deeply shaped by the people I’ve lived and shared life with. Living in Harambee this year has been no exception. Amidst many, many things, I’ve learned a little bit about the kind of love that doesn’t distinguish between family and friends and neighbors and strangers.
In his book appropriately entitled The Four Loves, there is a passage where C.S Lewis captures the formation of that love. He sets up the passage with an example. He explains how the mark of truly having a wide taste in books is not being able to read and appreciate any book from your own personal collection. The true mark is being able to read and appreciate a book off the cart of a bookstore’s reduced-price sidewalk sale. He goes on to write:
“The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet every day. In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there.’ Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”
And worth far more than we guessed.
[Kind of a side note—he follows up that paragraph with this:
“If we dwelled exclusively on these resemblances we might be led on to believe that this Affection is not simply one of the natural loves but is Love Himself working in our human hearts and fulfilling the law. Were the Victorian novelists right after all? is love (of this sort) really enough? Are the ‘domestic affections,’ when in their best and fullest development, the same thing as the Christian life? The answer to all these questions, I submit, is certainly No.”
I agree. Affection is not enough (having affection for my neighbor or having affection for my enemy doesn’t really fly), but it is a prerequisite, a sort of training wheel that teaches us how to love well.]
Soon, our house will transition to life apart. It’s a weird transition. These 8 people who have played a distinct role in the rhythm of my daily life will soon play a not as distinct role. Any type of ending that I try to envision to make the transition seem natural and smooth still feels abrupt and inadequate, uncomfortable and painful.
With love and heartache, I’ll end with as painless a goodbye as I know:
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.