I sat alone, for a few minutes at least, in the unlit and uncovered atrium of a church just south of Nashville. I was tired. Exhausted. Worn out in the way that only those introverts who have spent a long day in the welcoming company of dear friends can understand.
I was at a conference with several other Foundling House editors and writers. We had started the day together by leading a panel discussion on the importance and difficulties of being part of a creative community group. Eager faces looked up at us as we started. Pens were poised over notepads, waiting for us to give a simple, easy-to-follow formula that would generate the community we so desperately crave—a community that I also crave. I only wish it was so simple.
The sky glowed blue grey. It was that particular shade a clear sky can suddenly develop just after the Sun disappears over the horizon and before the darkness begins to settle. It is a comforting shade. The boldness of blue tempered by calm grey, like the faded denim of blue jeans worn out by time and hundreds of small labors and washings—it is a soft and comfortable blue.
I leaned back on the bench in the center of the atrium and looked around me, and I listened. At first, I only heard a cricket chirp as it too welcomed the evening. Then laughter and muted conversations began intruding into the quiet, into my solitude. I was annoyed. I had retreated to this space to reflect, to recharge, to prepare to dive back into the draining crowd. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be there, nor that I didn’t love those people, but I am used to being by myself most of every day. That is where I draw strength from.
As the sky darkened, the tall windows that surrounded the atrium like cathedral windows glowed brighter. Warm light spilled out of them and gathered in pools that shimmered delicately on the blades of grass. Each one showed a scene of happiness, a station of community. In one, a couple shared coffee at a tall table. In another, people embraced. Everywhere were smiles and laughter that drowned out the cricket’s solitary song. Not all was cheer though; there were some tears as well. Community was happening, not by following some formula, but by sharing life with others who focused on the same goal. It was the destination that drew the diaspora together. It was the longing for that distant shore—the New Jerusalem.
I gathered up my notebook and satchel and walked back into the light, knowing I was surrounded by another kind of window. One I could both look through to see a fleeting glimpse of the coming Kingdom, and one I could live inside as a promise of what is to come.