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  • Writer's pictureAndy Gray

Pondering: Communion

Tonight, we begin a new "First Things for Flourishing" study. The 12-part series explores different aspects of communal spiritual formation. Essentially, it's about what it takes to live in relationships with others such that it promotes flourishing for all.

Our first topic is "Communion." Oxford Dictionary defines communion as "the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level." My experience is that we need formation to do this in healthy ways. Perhaps it's just me, but it seems increasingly difficult in a world where we're conditioned for polarity. We're struggling to embrace mutuality, the practice of exchanging life with others, a two-way street where the giving and receiving of care, knowledge, and service flow freely.

Too often, we prefer one-way relationships where we self-promote and self-adorn ourselves as experts seeking an audience. We essentially demand agreement with our perspective. If compliance doesn’t follow, we amplify defensiveness and justify separation. Relationships lose mutuality and are reduced to co-existing divisions. You might hear this: "We will just have to agree to disagree,” which often effectually means... “I listened initially, but as soon as I heard something I disagreed with, I consolidated my opinion of you and am now defining you by this difference. I will distance myself from you and may use this against you in the future.” This is not a path to flourishing.

Communion is different than this. Mutuality is different from this. Here’s what it might look and sound like: “We disagree on this, but know that I see you; I hear you; I understand you; I love you; I will stay in proximity with you; I will not summarize and define the whole of you by this one dimension of difference in our relationship, and I will not use it as a weapon against you.” This kind of posture and relationship marks the path forward to mutual flourishing.

When we sit and dwell in curated echo chambers, our capacity for mutuality will experience atrophy, still alive but in a weakened state of human existence. We need to stretch and strengthen our relationship muscles through communal formation. Resistance is required to strengthen muscles in the gym. Loving through difference is the necessary resistance in relationships. We must decide if we will work out by embracing some relational resistance and difference in our lives or continue our decline of true communion.

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