“It is so good to see you again!”
You know the feeling. You know that surge of emotion and energy. We felt it, believe me! We greeted each other like long lost friends. But it had been only a week. And we had known each other for only two months. So, where was all the energy—all the joy—coming from?
I think it came from entering a new dimension. Literally.
Before that moment, we had known each other only as images on screens. A week earlier, we had had the seventh and final Zoom session of our course in the Gospel of Mark. We had spent the previous two months interacting by internet. Through email, text messages, uploaded written assignments and many hours of Zoom, we had gotten acquainted with each other as we explored Mark’s Gospel together… but apart.
And then we added a dimension. Images became flesh and blood. Two-dimensional people became three-dimensional. Representations became real. And the joy was nearly inexpressible!
We laughed as we discovered that some of us were much taller than we appeared online, and some, much shorter. We heard each other’s voices without techno-mediation, and were delighted to learn that Sister So-and-so’s voice did not naturally come bundled with the rumble of heavy traffic, nor did Brother So-and-so have to be accompanied by the barking of “that dog!”
We were in Santo Domingo—my first international trip in well over a year. My students were part of a larger group of pastors and leaders from the Baptist churches of the Dominican Republic that had partnered with IM to gather for a weekend-long continuing education retreat. I was part of an IM team that included Mylinda Baits and Mercy González-Barnes, and was led by mi consuegro (“my fellow father-in-law”), Tim Long. We shared teaching roles and explored how the New Creation vision of Revelation 21-22 can both inspire and shape today’s service to the Kingdom of God.
When I teach Revelation, I always have participants try their hand at sketching the visions John records. Even the most artistically-challenged of us find the discipline of drawing forces us to look more closely at the text, while even the most artistically-gifted discover that John’s descriptions bend the limits of language in ways that lie beyond our ability to capture. It is a very helpful tool. But this time, we did something else. Mylinda suggested that we add Play-Doh to the pencils and markers, so people could engage more physically in the creative process. What a fabulous idea! The room exploded with energy, activity, banter and learning, in a way I had never seen before!
The movement from 2-dimensional drawing to 3-dimensional creating unlocked something vitally important for all of us. It is not just that we have bodies. We are bodies. Engaging our whole selves makes a huge difference.
Embodiment. Enfleshment. Or, as the theologians like to say, incarnation. It matters. It matters at a level deeper than we usually stop to notice. If Jesus came today, it would not be by Zoom.
Now, I am genuinely grateful for the advances of technology that have made it possible for us to connect with each other virtually during this time of quarantining, isolating and distancing. At the same time, we also have a deep need to connect in an embodied way. So, I am especially thankful for the efforts of scientists and medical folks, whose work on both prevention and cure is already making it more and more possible to gather physically without harming each other!
It was a delight to be part of that weekend in Santo Domingo! Thank you for the faithful financial support that made it possible for me to be part of the team! Thank you for choosing to make the work God does through me, a part of the work God does through you!
May the Lord give you a growing number of ways to connect safely with family, friends and neighbors. And may you be both blessed and a blessing as you do so!
P.S. In less than a week, IM will once again hold a brief Monthly Giving Match campaign. In the past, these campaigns have been vitally important for helping to move my own and other global servants’ support toward our goals. I am close to being fully supported. If you are able to take advantage of this matching gift opportunity, it would be a big help! Whether or not you are able to join this campaign, thanks very much for your encouragement and partnership!