A Witness to My Life
By MARIANNE WOOD
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Covid shut down a lot of that “meeting together.” We are still recovering—some better than others. I think I know why. So first, here’s what seems to be working.
Created to provide the necessary interaction people need beyond the weekly meetings, my church hosts Gospel Community groups, called “GCs,” that meet weekly in most cases. Most churches call them “Life Groups” or simply “Small Groups” because individuals, couples, and families thrive when they participate in a community of around five to fifteen people, sometimes more. Other activities such as band or choir practice, Bible study, youth group, and more build relationships in most churches. As the Hebrews text clearly states, Christ-followers are commanded, not recommended or suggested, to keep this up. “Let us not neglect” leaves no wiggle room for excuses beyond a week or two. Maybe three.
Growing up in church, I never missed more than a few weeks of Sunday School, worship, and youth group. Except each summer. Yearly, my parents took us out of school a week before the close of our campuses to explore some regions of the country in an RV. Mom had taught briefly before my older brother came along, so she knew that the grade book closed long before the official end of school.
I have always cherished church friends and the reasons for meeting. But the habit of Covid confinement and meeting online produced a lasting sense of malaise for some. I felt it, too. And I have a term for it: Covid Codependency. Perhaps it is tempting to introverts and some ambiverts more than extroverts, but whatever the case, it contradicts the trustworthy and helpful injunction to meet in person.
Why would God make such a big deal out of this? In the movie “Shall We Dance,” starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and Jennifer Lopez, I found a clue. It also features Stanley Tucci for you “Searching for Italy” fans. He’s Richard Gere’s work pal who secretly loves ballroom dancing. But the key to this movie and my essay comes in a line spoken by Susan’s character, Beverly Clark, as she tells the private investigator she’d hired to trail her husband the reason we like to be married.
“We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does anyone’s life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”
Note: This quote may have been inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre’s work: Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone De Beauvoir, 1926-1939. As a wise woman said many years ago, truth is truth, no matter the source. Were he alive today, Mr. Sartre would be pretty surprised to find himself quoted here.
I have pondered and explored the concept of “a witness to my life” for many years. I sometimes note it, gratefully, at the end of the day when my husband, Larry, and I share our news. If he did not, if I did not, would our lives be like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear, and therefore it makes no sound? Would it be like a work of art inspired and created and never seen…never received? What meaning could we apply to our daily toil, petty complaints, and tiny triumphs? For those of you without a spouse, I hope you have a friend to call each day. No doubt, someone else needs this powerful expression of connection from you, too. And meeting for worship, Bible study, and more in groups extends “the witness,” producing tremendous satisfaction.
Another truth, yes, out of context but valuable nevertheless to this essay, comes from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 8: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Without witnesses, we would still have Truth with a capital T. But it is not enough. We were made for community as early in history as when Adam met Eve. “It was not good for man to be alone.” Were it not for that, we’d all be elsewhere or nowhere. It is not good to be alone.
So if you have friends or neighbors, relatives, or work buddies who seem isolated, help them overcome their Covid co-dependency or whatever keeps them away from you and others and encourage them to join the crowd, in person, even in a small, small group. Study a book together. Go out to dinner and discuss it. Or form a group like the one I’ve enjoyed, a “Grow Group” that meets weekly to cover a chapter or two of Jen Wilken’s In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character. We were made to enjoy each other.
Marianne Wood works as an editorial assistant and researcher for Bill Wright