Late last evening, I read an article posted by clinical psychologist, Kelly Flanagan, discussing the terms of endearment in a marriage. I’ve just come upon this author recently and, so far, I’ve appreciated what he has to say, from his thoughts on redemptive living (“a life in which the pain, brokenness, and mess of being human are not brushed under the rug but rather invited into the light”) to his willingness to be transparent with his own human struggles. I am grateful that there is a kindred voice for this kind of open and vulnerable honesty out there, that I am not alone in my willingness to speak aloud of such human emotions as pain and sorrow, loss and grief, confusion and fear. My feelings of shame and unworthiness, raw and exposed, revealed as they are right alongside my longings for belonging, joy, tenderness, compassion, delight, adventure, and vitality, are validated, humanized, and re’deemed’ by his normalizing voice.

It seems that sometimes even our emotional lives are deemed by our culture to be worthy or not, measured against some scale of the perfect ‘happy’ human, the same as our bodies are measured against a similar scale of a perfectly beautiful size and shape. Then, there are the fix-its for our normal human feelings the same as there is a new diet or exercise plan to make our normally shaped human bodies conform to some surface image we are told is the perfect way to be. We are no longer able to see that the whole spectrum of human feeling is beautiful, tender, lovable, necessary, sacred. So, we stuff them into clothes that don’t fit, trying to hide those perceived flaws.

Never mind hunger.

This afternoon, I came across a CBS news video feature of a young man who started a school club, now grown to 100 or more chapters across the country, called, We Dine Together. The club is about making sure that no student is stuck sitting alone in a lunchroom, without a companion, isolated from the community. Their purpose is welcome, empathy, and belonging. Their message is ‘Nobody should have to dine alone”. This evening, I learned that the word ‘companion’ translates roughly as ‘messmate’, literally ‘with whom one eats bread’. (com- with, pan-bread)

That’s rather how it feels to find an author like the one I’ve mentioned above. Or a friend who sits with me and says, without judgment or fear, “Yes, I taste that too”. The feeling of being alien is healed, the bread of life is shared. Hunger is fed.

all who eat this bread shall know that we are one

So, I thought I was sitting this evening to write about what this author/blogger had to say about the companionship of marriage, but it seems my fingers have gone in another direction. Still, I think I will bring this back to his words that marriage ‘asks of us a mutual surrender’, not to each other, but to our shared humanity, with ever deepening awareness and honesty about who we are, ‘flaws’ (beauty) and all.

Two people, stumbling their way toward happiness, by becoming more human, together. More aware of their arrogance. More aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle violence they perpetuate in their search for peace. More aware of how they long to be seen and yet hide themselves away. More aware of their anger and fear and shame.

Then, one day, ultimately, more aware of the light that lies beyond all that darkness. The light that is not the exception to our humanity, but the very source of it. The light at the center of each one of us. Surrendering, together, until the light within one comes so close to the light within another that they are no longer certain where one light ends and the other begins.

As my friend, Di, likes to say, ‘Not just for children, folks’, here I’ll say, ‘Not just for marriages, folks’. This is the way we companion one another in healing our inappropriate shame at ‘being human’. This is the way we companion one another out of hiding and into belonging. This is the way we companion one another into the fullness of human life. We break open that bread of life, and we taste it, together.

My hero, Fred Rogers, said it this way, “Won’t you be my neighbor”. I’ll say it another, “Let me be your companion”

Take this. Eat.

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