My dog hovers. It annoys the crap out of me. I’m fine with her slumping on my feet, even leaping with affection or laying out the back under the trampoline, but hovering is just annoying. She doesn’t sit, she stands; weight not quite evenly distributed, too close for comfort yet uncommitted in her affection. It’s the awkward tentativeness. It just makes me edgy.
I once had someone working with me who hovered. I’d be deep in work, focussed on screen or page, and I’d become aware out of the far reaches of my peripheral vision of a ‘presence’. There were times I tried to deny my peripheral vision, but it was futile. Someone was there – tentatively.
In the same way that a light touch on the back of my neck sends quivers up my spine, his tenativity felt a little ghostly. As though I needed to brush myself off afterwards.
I figured that if you’re going to interrupt anyway, you may as well be swift, clinical and confident. Diplomatic, sure, but not creepy.
When I’d finally look up, he’d have an awkward moment of stage fright as though the lights were on and his cue had come, but he’d forgotten his lines.
“Oh, yes, um, I, um, just, sorry, um…” and the question would follow.
I’m talking it up a little, but you get the idea.
I need to be careful here because it would be easy to misinterpret my point in bringing up my dog and my co-worker.
The members of the body of Christ do not hover, they function.
We don’t hang on the periphery; we are fully activated.
Ok, now the disclaimers. We need to get a sense of the climate of a community before engaging. We need to feel safe, affirmed, loved, and invited in that context. And, before any of this, we need to know that their foundation is Jesus and their heart is for loving one another and loving others.
To a lesser degree, we also need to know that our gifts can be activated within a particular context for God’s glory.
And we need to know that if we’re sick and healing – emotionally, physically, spiritually, ‘churchily’ – this is a place to be revived and restored without feeling as though we’re letting the team down in the process.
That said, the members of the body of Christ do not hover, they function.
Paul’s letters are laden with ‘one anothers’. They are directed at particular bodies of people who are following Jesus together. Love one another (John 13:34), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32), encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), pray for each other (James 5:16), live in harmony with one another (I Peter 3:8). There’s plenty more, but you get the idea.
I can’t imagine any of these are possible out of the context of intimate community with one another. Ok, perhaps a couple, but beyond those, the expressions towards one another would become lovelessly abstracted.
My thoughts are fivefold.
First, it’s hard to ‘one-another’ on your own. Our faith is personal (it’s a unique identity in Christ), but it’s neither private nor segregated. It’s expressed within a specific body of believers that form a part of the Church universal.
Second, there doesn’t seem a whole lot of consumerism in those ‘one-anothers’. Not much church-hopping, not much ‘too loud, too big, too small, too whatever’ going on. It’s other-centred and multi-faceted in its other-centredness.
Third, I need to know you to ‘one-another’ you. I need to know your name, your struggles, your joys, your giftings, your dreams, and your tentativity. Not because I have a pastoral role in the church that you’re around which you’re hovering, but because I am ‘another’ in the same body of believers as you.
Fourth, everyone gets to play. The one-anothering is unidirectional. It’s not the responsibility of the leaders to the ‘flock’; it’s the responsibility of the members of the body to one another.
Finally, there comes a time to stop hovering and get one anothering. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to sign up for some time-consuming ministry role. If you do, it will likely be the source of much joy for you – but that’s another conversation altogether. What it does mean, is that there comes a time to move from the periphery to become a part of a body. From an out-of-body experience of the body to an integrated experience of the body.
I believe the broken-being-mended (which, to varying degrees, is all of us), are given the same privileges of one-anothering as every other member. It may not look like running full steam ahead as it will in another season, but the bench is not the periphery in the church. The bench is another locus for ‘one-anothering’.
As I mentioned earlier – hopefully with appropriate grace and mercy – there are reasons that you may have extracted yourself from the body. These reasons are not new to the family of God. A couple of sentences are not going to resolve the hurts of the past, yet I remain convinced that a lifetime of love and ‘one-anothering’ absolutely can and will. I don’t believe this because it’s my idea or the idea of some clever leader, but because ‘every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change’ (James 1:17). And among Jesus’ finest work, is the Church that He birthed in the shedding of His blood for you and me.