One of the great things about being back in my hometown of Cleveland for the holidays is that I can catch up with the people that I love.
A few days ago, for instance, my mother and I got dinner with my grandfather. Now that I'm a bit older, I'm starting to realize that the patriarch in my minds eye is only a fraction of the person my grandfather is. Over dinner he shared some stories about his career. Since he's been retired since I was just a few years old, it's weird to think about him working a job that changed the landscape of our community.
That dinner made his life suddenly more complex to me, and when we were driving home, my mother agreed what a lovely disconcerting feeling it is to see that a person is more then just their connection to you. She mentioned that with me and my sister, she looks at our education and career and lives as an extension of her own life since we are her kids. Even more then being her children, though, we are also our own person with our own lives.
I think this recognition is a little challenging to wrap our head around. We really only know how to experience life from our own vantage point. For instance, I found out last night that a friend who has been living as an HIV positive patient for as long as I've known him now has full-blown AIDS. I keep thinking, what can I do to support him? What will it be like for me if I lose him? How will my living in Chicago affect how I can care for him as he begins treating his condition differently? I keep seeing the Tina-centered connections, and while those connections are real and valid, at the same time a whole other slew of things is going on that have nothing to do with me but everything to do with him. My friend is living a life that affects me be doesn't include me, and while his condition is a part of my life, it is still a very separate thing that ultimately disconnected from me. Our experience of AIDS can be in tandem together, but it will never be equal.
Perhaps that's why the gift of Christ's humanity is such a hard thing for us to wrap our head around. Our Triune God came into human form so that he could not only be an extension of our humanity, like I am an extension of my mother, but so that he could also be a part of our humanity. Christ lives fully and equally in every part of our human experience, and will be completely with me and completely with my friend as we struggle with this new diagnosis of AIDS.
We are so blessed to be in community with each other, to be connected as extensions of each others lives, impacting and shaping one another as we progress together towards our independent futures. But we are far more blessed to have a God who loves us so much to live as human, truly living the life of our vantage point.