Given our ministry is about community, after the main session ended we invited participants to linger. We stopped recording and engaged in dialogue. This quickly became my favourite portion of the October series. People who had shown up to listen were given space to speak and share their thoughts.
On the evening Bethany joined us, many shared some very hard realities of what it meant in their own lives to live with the expectation placed upon them to pray for a cure. Others shared their struggles of living with a chronic illness and working to understand the concept of healing when they prayed for a cure. Conversations were hard, important, and very vulnerable that evening.
During Bethany’s conversation, I noticed a pennant she had pinned to the wall behind her. When we were thanking her for joining us, I remarked that I had the same pennant in my office. The pennant was a gift that came with the purchase Kate Bowler's book, No Cure for Being Human (and other truths I need to hear).
During our sharing time at the end of the session, others in the group noted their appreciation for Bowler’s perspective on living with the reality of life not being perfect, in fact far from it. Bowler, a professor at Duke University, lives with stage IV cancer and invites us into her messy and unpredictable life that is often dictated by her diagnosis. When the call ended, I emailed my boss asking if we could start a book club in the new year, with Bowler’s book being our guide. Without hesitation I received a resounding yes!
During the month of January, a group of us gathered on Thursday evenings to read through Bowler’s book. Bowler has developed a discussion guide for her book, which was a wonderful resource for us. Together we shared our lives, challenges, joys, and worldviews. We held space for one another, recognizing that each of us came into this book club with a personal connection to Bowler’s conversation on a life that can be daunting at times.
What continually strikes me when I enter into conversation with others in our community is the compassion and empathy we hold for each other. While life can be challenging, being in community and part of something greater than ourselves is very beautiful. All of us who gathered found that sharing in one another’s lives, hearing stories of love and joy in the midst of struggle, and holding the tension that is life on earth, were all parts of the equation.
One of the book club participants, Brenda DeJong, remarked:
"The book club discussion of Kate Bowler’s book, No Cure for Being Human, gave us a chance to explore and share thoughts of our own disappointments/surprises in life—events we hadn’t planned on, and how we processed them and how they changed us. The group was a lovely safe place to do that together and we appreciated each other’s willingness to share personal perspectives and experiences."
While there are many aspects of my work with Disability Concerns that I love, laughing, crying, and sharing space with everyone who is part of this community is by far my favourite. We all come to the table aware that we are exactly as God made us: in His image, created for community. It is messy and it is beautiful.