A Journey Toward Closeness
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
John 1:(1-9), 10-18
January 3, 2022, Words By: Jenna Smith, Image By: Blakely Dadson
Last week, I was on the phone with Michèle*, a very gifted social worker and therapist. She is advising our organization for a research project we are coordinating that is looking to capture the narrative of Christian survivors of domestic violence and the church’s response.
Michèle has done extensive training and reflection on attachment theory and the correlation of broken attachments, trauma, and violence in the household.
In an impassioned plea, she said, almost in a trembling voice, “The thing is Jenna, the restoration of attachment to creator, seeking one-ness with the broken Christ on the cross, this is the only way into healing of self and of relationships with others. Anything else is the way of violence.” And she added, “Including a culture of politeness,” sparing no criticism of Canadian social ethics of relationship building.
It was the second time that week that someone had spoken to me in such urgent terms. Another call with a respected leader and addictions counsellor, Davis*, who lives across the country, had us talking about the brokenness of communities. In very sober tones, he said, “The chasms between groups on issues of race, equity and vaccinations, are breaking spirits. Here is what I say to church leaders: we can no longer afford surface unity. Jenna, I fear violence.”
I am convinced that it is because of these conversations that in this week’s lectionary text, I was immediately drawn to the last verse. In what is one of the most influential passages on the Incarnation, its concluding phrase offers a simple conclusion to 16 verses of poetry, doctrine, history, and imagination: the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father.
We have lived through almost 24 months of un-proximity. This has un-raveled, un-bonded and un-tied us. Some might even say it has un-humanized us. The distance that we’ve experienced has been a physical reality. It has been a psychological reality. It has also been a spiritual one. Distance has devolved into rivalry.
To this culture of rivalry, John offers a portrait of Christ: the nearing of Dei through flesh. The Dei in closest relationship to the Father, the Dei in proximity to us, so that we in turn may learn the practices of proximity: to Him, to ourselves and to creation.
In The Message version of verse 17, we read: “This endless knowing and understanding, all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.” Again, we can read this as a pathway away from violence, or rather towards closeness: endless understanding, modelled to us by Christ so that we may endlessly understand our Father and in turn, our neighbour.
May the God who drew near to us ever model our path towards the practices of endless understanding and proximity.
*Not their real names.
Dwelling Among Us
Who do you need to practice proximity with? What “endless understanding” do you need to practice this week?