Two weeks ago (hard to believe it’s already that long ago) I left Albuquerque and trekked 2800 miles, in a rather windy fashion, back to Washington, D.C. From Albuquerque, my good friend James and I went to the Grand Canyon, up to Denver, through St. Louis down to Durham, NC, and then back up to DC. It was a wonderful adventure and I saw so many beautiful things. The highlight of the trip was of course the Grand Canyon and our hike down and up it. It was a difficult hike, but worth every minute of it, from the 30 mph wind gusts on the hike down to the 40 degree Colorado River that we jumped in.
The trip was a great time of transition from this last year of being in new places with new people to a familiar city and familiar people. The extraordinary difference between D.C. and the Grand Canyon (or even Albuquerque!) really was like coming to a new universe. Buildings everywhere, cars, people…I thought traffic in ABQ was bad, but there is no comparison. The humidity. There is something at odds with creation in the city. Lack of space, lack of fresh air, lack of mobility; it’s the complete opposite of where I was just 2 weeks ago. Yet, I feel like I’m in the exact right space.
I’ve moved into Cornerstone, a community for formerly homeless men in recovery. Here, folks like the people I spent most of my college Saturdays hanging out with at Union Station are in the bedroom next door and we share meals together every day. My first 2 days here were spent a neat little cottage in Chestertown, MD literally right on the Chesapeake Bay, for a house retreat. It was amazing to see just how being out of the city brought out the contemplative side of the men. Everyone was sharing their reflections on the solitude, silence, and wonder of the beauty of creation. “Natural high” has a new meaning in this context. The guys were almost overwhelmed with beauty, the chance to relax, swim, fish; activities much closer to the Garden of Eden than what so much of their lives have been filled with.
And in the end, that’s what I think community can point to: the final Eden. Little retreats like we did with the guys give glimpses to them that life is supposed to be better, supposed to have more joy, supposed to have more depth of experience than just drugs and alcohol. But what blows my mind is that it’s not just the folks addicted to substances that need this wake up. We’re all addicted to something. Some are addicted to money, some to sex, some to illusions of power and control, some to self-deception; community, which is at the heart of church, can offer the wake up call to us that there is a new Eden we will one day take part in fully, but for now, we must work for and experience the beginnings of that Eden. But the mere sensation of what God’s ideal for the world is has the potential to transform us into beings of change and encouragement, hope in dark places.