This summer I am reading along with two of our study groups, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. Her aim is to help us find meaningful ways to discover the sacred in the small things we do and see. It’s a great book by a talented preacher/author.
In each chapter, she identifies a way to make an ordinary act a spiritual exercise. This week our group discussed The Practice of Encountering Others. I found in her explanation a rich description of why I believe it is essential to the Christian faith to be part of a community. Taylor says,
…encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get—in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing—which is where God’s Beloved has promised to show up. Paradoxically, the point is not to see [God]. The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.
I think she makes a strong point about valuing each other’s humanity and respecting each other regardless of how alike or different we are. “Do this,” Taylor says, “and the encounter changes you. It is what life is all about.” Wise words, I think, for living in these anxious times.