It’s raining tonight, coming in diagonally. Words like torrent, soaked, cats and dogs, a million clichés puddling up in the corners of my mind. But I drive slowly down the highway, through a town and pull up to a house with a soft yellow glow and a scraggly rose bush climbing up the side.
I am the first one here; to a book club that hasn’t read a book in 6 months. There is a murmur of voices from upstairs with an occasional 3 year old shout. I settle down on worn furniture with beauty surrounding me. Brilliant sunflowers next to a sketchbook, one page-a scribbled grocery list- the other a sketch with the suggestions of truth. It is the beautiful not found in magazines but in life. A little messy maybe but with beauty intertwined with the common that it takes your breathe away. I flip through Time magazine and wait for the others to arrive.
We talk about the nothing that is of utmost importance. Kids and God and writing and art and books. My Grandmother has passed away but I’m not ready to talk about it just yet, so after murmurs of comfort we change the subject. This is my fellowship, a word that for too many years meant large halls full of people who know your name but not your soul- Italian dressing dripping off iceberg lettuce and moistening overcooked ziti- with general conversation about what I’m studying. But now, this is our communion: sipping too strong White Russians and eating chocolate and blueberry crumble.
My friend, she has the power of a namer. I remember youth group, just one summer together. Me, entering as a freshman and her a graduating senior. I will always remember the first time I went to a youth group event without the comforting presence of my big sister, I walked through the door not sure if anyone would even know me or acknowledge my presence. All the pain and terror of being fourteen and lonely tied up into a walk through a door. And she smiled and said “Hello, Deig.” That nickname- reserved for family and the closest of friends- suddenly I belonged. I was named. I am always drawn to people like that- people who are able to bring out the essence of others. These namers, they are subtle. You think you’re in a regular conversation and slowly you realize, with their turns of phrase, with their honest questions, with their eye contact, they are reaching deep into your being and drawing you out gently and slowly. To name is to listen to the song of someone else’s soul and sing it back to them when they have forgotten it.
And this is love. Being seen. Having silence, having a voice, a space, four people in room, no posturing or tiptoeing, just honesty and heartbreak and joy. And this is love us choosing to be vulnerable because sometimes the most terrible thing to risk is yourself. But to make that choice, to open yourself up to the possibility of rejection is also to open yourself up to the possibility of deep love.