If someone had told me about two years ago that I would love so many people I had met online and through letters, I probably would have looked at them as if they were crazy, and signed them off as a nutcase. I mean; who can really know a person through words, anyway? I used to make the point that if you were illiterate, you could not distinguish a person in text from squiggles in the sand. Even my brothers sometimes jest that these "people" are "only words".
Then again, if I hadn't balked at that, the fabled "L" word would have pulled me up short. Love? Did they say "Love"?!
Cue a slackjawed expression of utter disbelief and total it's-time-to-leave course of action.
How wrong these responses would have been.
It was an awesome visit, one I've never forgotten, and we remain best of friends to this day. However one of the things I learnt was, Sarah was a real person. Yes, that is a real "Duhh" moment, however it went to prove that there was a person behind the words. I felt like I had known Sarah my whole life, because she was just as she was in her letters.
Words have a voice! Over the past few years I have gotten to meet other penfriends of mine, and the words they wrote I now hear coming from their mouths. It is so real, and so them. Whether the words are found on a screen or on paper, the people behind them are tangible and exist, so fully!
But there is more to this. During the time I have been an active member of HolyWorlds, I have made some wonderful friendships with people in around the globe. They are people who can laugh and cry with me, who can discuss deep topics with me, goof off and be silly around, or sit in silence and pray together with. The world of HW is something unique, and special. There is something about the people there that feels like you are coming home to a home cooked meal, your favourite place on the couch, and a fire on the hearth. It is a feeling that swells your heart to overflowing, and fills your soul with joy. What is it?
More recently I have had this same feeling. When we were in Tasmania for ten days this April traveling about and visiting good friends, (Sarah's family, Bek's family) new friends, and people we had never met before, we all felt this same bizarre homey sense. It was a familiarity with these people. It filled their homes, their lives; it seemed to exude from their very being. And I feel it even now with those I know online. What is it?
It is God's Spirit. The same Spirit that dwells within all of us children of Christ, we recognize in our brothers and sisters. The oneness we felt together with the people we met, and the same oneness I feel with the people I know online is the same Jesus who lives in each and every one of us. There are so many of my siblings in the Lord, and yet He is in every one of them, linking us all together. It's as though we are all on the same radio wavelength; we all know each other's heart, and in each one of us, we can see the familiarity of the Christ we know. It's amazing! No matter how fair apart we are, no matter what we are separated by, we are all connected by something closer than nothing anyone can fathom. It fills me with awe!
This then leads me to the love I have for these people. Love in this day and age has been watered down to something that is tied with romantic walks that couples take on the beach. Real love goes much deeper than that. (1 Cor 13) It is the extra tie Christian siblings have with each other - the Love of God in them. It is this love that drives us to care for each other like one of our own; because we are one of our own. The kind that overrides the boundaries of the shallow "romantic" love.
It is the love that bruises my heart and brings me to tears when I see my brothers and sisters in Christ suffering under hardship or in pain.
It is the love that makes me want to explode with happiness when I see their goals achieved, or God's blessings come upon them.
It is the love that makes my heart and soul swell with pride and admiration when I see them triumph and overcome difficulty, or display an incredible Godliness in the things they do.
It is the love that tears me apart inside when I care so much that I feel helpless to be there for them when they are experiencing torments in life.
It is the kind of love that makes me overflow with joy to make them laugh; to joke and tease each other and know that we all do it out of the same regard for one another.
I know these feelings. I feel them and experience them often as though it were my very own flesh. And it is the spirit of Love in us all that causes me to know them in such a real way. You see, God's love and the Holy Spirit is not restricted by the words we say. When the Holy Spirit dwells inside of a person, it can not help but be visible in everything they do. The light in their life shines so that the whole world can see God in them, regardless of whether that is done in person, on paper, or online. No one can deny the Spirit that is at work in them. It is the Spirit that binds us all together. (Romans 8:11)
I am so blessed with the friendships God has brought into my life. The best thing is, no matter where the Lord takes us all, and no matter if we lose sight of each other over time, we are connected by something stronger than any force in this world: our Lord and Saviour Jesus. And at the end of time, we will all be together, with nothing too big to part us ever again. ~