I've been reflecting on...well more like marinating in the memory of an amazing weekend I recently spent with some kindred spirits in Milwaukee.
We gathered together for a banner event -- the wedding of our mutual beloved friend, Krista. While this wedding was much anticipated, I know Krista won't be offended or surprised to hear that the time our group of friends would be spending together was just as eagerly anticipated.
These people are forever ingrained upon the pages of my life. We worked, lived and breathed together in Brussels, Belgium, where we all worked for a variety of Christian missions organizations that were all housed in the same buildings. I had the pleasure of getting to work with several of them, and even got to be roomies with a couple of the girls. But the bonds went deeper than that.
There's nothing like leaving everything you know and are familiar with to live in a foreign country that speaks not one, but two different languages other than your mother tongue. Add in great stretches of the absence of sunlight, a rotten exchange rate to the dollar and therefore, frequent poverty, homesickness, and living and working with complete strangers -- strangers whom you need to rely on to help you transition to this new life, and who are really the only ones who can help you have a sense of home away from home. Add all of these together, and you might have a recipe for disaster.
But, this didn't happen. Instead, we embraced the change, struggled in our language classes, earned our Belgian driver's license, traveled Europe on our time off, shared our histories, ate epic chocolate and mind-blowing Lebanese pitas, offered a shoulder and plenty of kleenex when homesickness was acute, and basically interwined our lives and heart strings with one another.
These are the types of things that bond people together. It wasn't the quantity of time that we spent with each other (and looking back one of my dearest friendships from that time holds the record of the least amount of time I spent with anyone there). Rather, it was the intensity of those times that fused our hearts.
It's what happens when people push through the polite platitudes and into the depths of sacred territory.
And because of the distance of that reach into the core of our very being, soul touches leave a mark. Because it's impossible for people to see each other's souls in such a rustic and vulnerable state, and not be forever altered.
And yes, you can abuse that sacred connection -- that's why separation is so brutal, and heartbreak is so shockingly painful.
But when soul touch is treasured -- and even carefully protected -- it's a wonder to behold.
It can happen with intention or be completely unplanned. And that's how we can sometimes get ourselves into trouble. We can touch souls with someone we were never meant to touch -- and then we deal with the consequences. Many extramarital affairs begin in this way. That's why the Bible cautions us to, "guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." (Prov. 4:23)
But when we get it right, there's nothing quite like it. And that's why I could sit there on the floor of our hotel's lounge and dip my spoon into the communal quart of frozen custard (from Kopp's of course) and laugh until we cried about who-can-remember-what with people whom I hadn't seen for several years (and some that I had never met until that weekend) well into the night.
And although I had communicated infrequently with some since those days in Brussels, being there together in that place in time brought back a veritable deluge of memories of Saturday morning berry pickings and communal pancake feeds, dancing on the cobblestones of the Grande Place, sipping coffee or enjoying a Dame Blanche at our favorite hangout on the Place, La Brouette, riding the TGV bullet train to Paris for the day -- just because, and pooling our money so we could buy a pint of Dreyer's ice cream for $6.
I genuinely love these people. They knew me "when," just as I knew them. The years that have followed have been well-enjoyed chapters from those original pages we penned together. And even if it's several more years until we are able to enjoy each other's company once again, I know that the reverberations of that original soul touch continue on, and nothing -- not time, not economic hardship, not marital status changes -- will ever be able to erase that fingerprint that has been forever imprinted.