The Face of the Other Changes Everything

I took this photo of dry leaves two years ago on the last day of January and filed it on my laptop with the title “no snow”. Where I live, a widespread blizzard that swept across Indiana and Michigan made up for past snow-free seasons. We got at least a foot of snow over the first three days of February 2022, and we still have plenty on the ground.

Facing a weather-imposed sabbatical from in-person relationships this week due to the snow storm (and before that, a stubborn pandemic), I felt a wave of yearning for fellowship and purpose. If I’m honest, that yearning is nothing new. For the past four months, my husband and I have been on a sabbatical from the church we attended for 15 years. It was a personal decision and, while we’ve worshipped in a few other spaces, we haven’t yet committed to formally joining any fellowship of believers. We trust the Lord will show us when and where.

As a result, my life has slowed down considerably. In this season, I spent more time in the Word, read more books of all types, interacted with believers (and doubters) from around the world via social media and Zoom, and honestly relished the sight of a relatively empty calendar. This week, the words of Father Richard Rohr affirmed the dry and lonely state we’ve experienced during our loss of church relationships and it confirmed that it is God’s will for us to do life with others. These words served to point me toward the truth. “You can’t stay here. This dry season will end.”

“It is relationship, ‘the face of the other,’ that transforms us, converts us, and gives us our deepest identity. Not book knowledge!

In the philosophical traditions in which Western Christians have been educated up to now, truth is formed and found by the private mind and its collections of agreed-upon ideas. Identity can be achieved autonomously, with a certain kind of self-sufficiency. Thus, we speak of the ‘self-made person’ and familiar cultural truth.

Jesus instead defines truth itself as relational rather than conceptual. He says ‘I am the truth’ (John 14:6) and then immediately describes himself as one who is in absolute relationship with his ‘Father’ (14:7, 9–10) and the Spirit who is in relationship to both (14:16–18). This rearranges the world of religion from arguments over ideas and concepts into a world of encounter, relationship, and presence to the face of the other. That changes everything.” ~ Father Richard Rohr

I know my Enneagram number, I’ve fine-tuned my identity with Meyers-Briggs, I have been on a life-altering journey of spiritual formation, and I’ve journaled all the things God is showing me in this fallow season. But today He is telling me it’s about time to link arms once again with others on the same journey and to look deeply into “the face of the other.”


1 Comment

  1. Charis

    “These words served to point me toward the truth. ‘You can’t stay here. This dry season will end.’”

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