My last paid job before birthing babies was working with students at our former church. My favorite part of the job was the trips we took, whether international mission trips or local weekend retreats. (There is no substitute for that kind of time with people even at my current stage of life.) A particular junior high trip up to the YMCA camp on Lake Burton called High Harbor sticks out in my memory because of a field game called the “Pull Apart” game. It’s about as ridiculous as the name implies and one you’d only find on such a retreat. All of a certain category (boys/girls/kids/grown-ups) connect themselves together on the ground with tangled arms, legs and hands. Then, the other category of people works hard to pull them all apart until the last connected pair is declared the winner.
Not surprisingly, one of the little girls came out of the game crying that her arm was hurting. If you know anything about junior high, this meant that about fifteen other girls needed to be intimately involved in the trauma. Being exceptionally sensitive, I told them all to pipe down and that she was fine and then I took her to the infirmary to get some ice. She showed up at church the next week with a huge cast because, it turns out, her arm had been broken in two places.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:3-5
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Gen. 1:18
From the beginning, it seems, no individual has ever had the capacity to image God completely or sufficiently independently. And yet, from the beginning, the Pull Apart Game has been in effect, determining to separate individuals from one another. I’ve been feeling this so much lately and thinking about excessively as if it’s a riddle to solve or like I can cure it if I just find the golden key.
Here is the evidence of the pull apart game that is like finding maddening signatures left behind from a serial killer: A couple’s marriage dissolves into a tense roommate status because it’s easier than sorting through all the hurts, disappointments, shame and turmoil to work towards genuine harmony and joy. A small group Bible study brings together people who apparently like each other but feel awkward trying to get on the same page theologically and socially so eventually, individuals stop coming. Friends move into new life stages which reveal differing perspectives on materialism, politics, and their faith. They get together a little less frequently until their meetings are just by chance at someone’s birthday party or other gathering. The point is, the pull to separateness and distance between people seems to consistently overpower any desire for intimacy and genuine unity. The result is not just broken arms and broken body parts, but a broken Body. Our disconnects (socially, politically, spiritually and relationally) seem like impenetrable iron walls which grow thicker and taller and leave any notion of connectedness defeated.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Is. 53:5
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Matt. 26:26 He was pulled apart so that we could be reconciled…to Him and to one another. He took our disconnects and replaced them with His righteousness, the only righteousness which unifies all people from all backgrounds who come from all perspectives.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Col. 1:18-20
The only One who could image God fully without dependence on other men, Jesus, is also the very same only One who can kick holes through the iron walls and level them to the ground. Those little girls who gathered around the friend with the broken arm were right to be concerned and notice something was not right about this game. My sin is indeed as great a deceiver as that snake in the Garden, luring me into isolation even if means a broken arm. Christ in me, the hope of glory, gives me confidence that He who is in me is in deed greater than he who is in the world, even greater than my own divided heart. I can do nothing alone about the iron walls that spring up like weeds around me, but He can.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:20-16