This morning I received an invitation from a friend to a get-together. The invitation was extended to a group of women who make up pretty much the closest friends I have. We would pray, we would eat, we would chat and spend a few hours soaking up each others' friendship to heal our souls.
I read it and I felt the cold chill go down my back. My muscles tensed. I breathed deeply.
I was just about to email the friend back with a question, not exactly a commitment, but trying to work my way there, when I read it again. Carpooling strongly suggested? Escape routes blocked! I put my phone down. Ok. Calm down. You can do this.
Had to stop for a moment of self-awareness. It helps me to step back and look at personal situations objectively. I imagined myself explaining what I felt at the moment to someone else. I imagined what contrast I could paint to put someone into my shoes.
Suppose I orchestrated an event that would foster bonds of friendship, something that would bring a deep sense of value and meaning to me and help me look at those other women as comrades-in-arms. What would it look like?
Marie invites you to a prayer solidarity gathering. We will gather from 2-4 am in the garden beside the Cathedral downtown. We will kneel on the ground outside, mostly in silence, with the exception of perhaps chanting a psalm or two together. We will pray silently for each other's needs, but especially in reparation for sins committed in the downtown at night and for the conversion of the town.
As I ran that over in my head, my first thought was "They would think I was being sarcastic." But I knew I wasn't. I imagined what words would spring forth from people to describe such a thing.
Dangerous. Difficult. Painful. Brave. Sacrificial. Unreasonable. (unvoiced: Weird)
So I kind of smiled inside. Yes, Imaginary Voice of my friend. You understand. You understand what it feels like for me to go to a women's chitchat lunch.
But no, I thought, I couldn't really take myself seriously, so why should anyone else, unless I was really prepared to do such a thing. I mulled this over in my head awhile.
And then it struck me. I already do this. Except I don't pray outside at the Cathedral. (Yet. I like this idea.) I pray in a Eucharistic chapel once a week at 2am. And it is only for an hour, an hour that always seems to go by way too fast. And it dawned on me that I could invite people to join me, and we could indeed work on growing this type of bond as we intercede for mutual needs and for conversion.
This would totally work for me as "friendship that heals the soul." To me, bonds really form through sacrifice, and good bonds form through mutual sacrifice. Ironically, it doesn't feel like quite as much of a sacrifice to pray in the middle of the night as it does to do the chitchat thing, and this probably has something to do with why I have a sense of a bond with some of these women in the first place, regardless of whether it is reciprocated, because it costs me something to "chat".
But there's something about that sacrifice. It needs to be an act freely chosen and carried out, not just an act I survive because I can't avoid it. That doesn't build up love. And sometimes I treat social settings like things I survive, because it feels like I imagine people would feel about kneeling outside in the middle of the night in silence. I can easily think of 300 things I'd rather do!
An act of love really has to come from inside me. There's no use any of us pretending, and there's no use any of us being afraid to love in the ways peculiar to us.
So, maybe I will go to the chatfest. (I haven't firmly decided yet.) After all, I can study how it all works. But maybe I will invite them to join my holy hour once a month, too. And who knows; someone might even seriously think about it.