I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.–2 John 1:12
Yesterday, I mentioned my attendance at the annual Cornerstone Music Festival. This was my fourth time attending the festival, although I had an eight-year gap in the middle. After my first year, I learned to always take the most important piece of equipment: ear plugs. While many people wear ear plugs to concerts, I typically don’t stand right in front of the speakers. I use ear plugs for sleeping. The quiet hours at Cornerstone run from about 3:30 am until about 9:00 am. Often I’ve found myself awake, ear plugs having fallen out, in the wee hours. The quiet is delightful. The rest of the day features the incessant throb of music, the whir of golf carts, and a welter of voices.
You don’t really know people until you’ve camped with them. Cornerstone provides plenty of opportunity to be irritated by this person and that. Last week I got to deal with know-it-all teens, cranky preschoolers, and super messy twenty-somethings. Farther afield, I got to listen to a bunch of yahoos sing “Free Bird” on July 4. Why? I don’t know.
Christian life, as John suggests here, is best lived face to face. Too often, we try to insulate ourselves with our churches and in our churches. We don’t want to sit by the annoying person or sing the music that isn’t our favorite. We–and I speak more broadly here–shop for the church that “meets our needs,” which is code, I think, for the church that doesn’t annoy us. Are you offended by your pastor? Shop for one who sees things differently. Better yet, go to Joel Osteen’s church where you can be lost amidst the many thousands of people and hear a cheerful gospel of self-improvement and prosperity.
I am, by nature, a solitary, non-social person. I’m capable of drifting amidst hundreds of people without connecting with any of them. I’m happy that way, but that way isn’t what Christ left us to live. As annoying as others can be, as much as we may want to avoid them, we should make our joy complete not only in communion with Christ but in communion–messy as it often is–with Christians.