By Heidi Goehmann
We listen to a fair amount of audiobooks in our family. Early on in our four year old’s life we figured out that if we had an audiobook in, then he didn’t find it necessary to scream each and every moment of a car ride.
The last audiobook we finished was called “Touch Blue” and dealt with the topic of change, foster care, and finding your own place in the world. At one point in the book, the main character is struggling with the definition of home and who she is as an individual, growing into her own adolescent skin. The father explains to that we’re all made up of “bits and pieces” to make a whole self. He explains that life is a journey and we aren’t made for just one place or relationship, that we have many elements and life experiences that make the whole picture of who we are. Our “bits and pieces”, as he put it, are collected together throughout our lives of people we love, experiences we have, and places we’ve been.
While our identity as a Christian, a Lutheran Christian, and a church worker is firmly grounded in Christ Jesus at our baptisms, this treasure of wisdom tucked into a middle reader drove me to explore Biblically how God works to make each of us as individuals, unique and complete in Him. Then, the lectionary reading in church shortly after hit the nail on the head –
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
So much of church work includes waving goodbye out the rearview window of my minivan. One of the blessings of college and seminary life is wonderful friends scattered all over the country. One of the blessings of new calls and ministry challenges is being in relationship with and enjoying life together in various places and ministry context. But never will I have all the people I love in one place. This is true in life outside of ministry for many people, but it can be amplified with the moves of ministry life.
For so long I felt robbed. I left Texas and felt like I left half my heart there. I left Minnesota and left half my heart there. I left Missouri and left half my heart there. I love visiting my friends and family across the nation, across the world, but it’s always so painful to leave. And then I have to turn around and watch my daughter, in the back seat, begin this struggle, crying her eyes out as the van pulls down I-44.
But just as the Ephesians 4 says, we are pieces of a body – joints and muscles and marrow. I’m a strong and independent person, so my vision of the body of Christ has always been that neat little picture of all of us as whole people put together, joined to the head, which is Christ. While this is most certainly true, I think I was missing a deeper layer of the truth. We aren’t just put together as separate people into Christ’s body, we are woven together more intricately than that. We are pieced together by Christ, in the womb, but also throughout our live as we grow and love one another, to understand a fuller version of our identity in Christ. As we reach out and live life together, as we invite others into our contexts and worlds, we grow in Christ and discover a little bit more of who we are.
This process, although beautiful, has an element of pain. Christ is constantly knitting. As we give our lives to Christ and love His people, He puts a piece of you in me and me in you, which means I need to lose a little of myself for His sake. Christ values us as individuals, but he also values us as connected individuals in His body.
So, when I wave out the back window of my minivan and my heart is weeping, I will remember the lesson of “bits and pieces.” I will remember that a piece of you is in me, through the work of our Savior. I keep you with me, not in a vague sense, but in a very real way through the Holy Spirit. Without you, I am not who Christ intended me to be, our relationship is part of the race part of the sojourner’s journey. In this life, I’ll gather up all kinds of dear relationships and Christ will knit us together. One day, friend, one day, we will be completely whole In Christ and in one place together for eternity.
I am so thankful for all the people who are my bits and pieces. This life would not be the same without you.