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The Word Made Flesh (My Writer’s Retreat at Laity Lodge)

October 6, 2010

There’s this thing that happens when you meet someone for the first time in person, after having known them as a blogger. I don’t know what to call it, those few hazy minutes when this blog imago is being transformed right before your eyes into a living, moving, human being. Some kind of skeptical guardedness hovers over you for a few minutes, like a light fog. Its’ a little strange.

Upon first sight of this blogger friend, you immediately notice the physical characteristics, compared to what was in your head – this person is slightly taller, or maybe a lot taller than you expected. Or skinnier than your imagination had contrived. Or you see those eyes – can they really be so blue?

You take it all in, on the sly, like singing a song you haven’t learned the words to yet. But you act like it’s no big deal. You do this all the time, you tell yourself, meeting up with your blogging friends like this. But that’s not really true, so you’re feeling a little awkward. And afraid. You wonder what they think about you. Am I different than what they imagined? Skinnier? Younger-looking, I hope? Am I smiling enough? Am I acceptable? I hope they like me. 

Then they start speaking, and this voice is different from reading their post, or commenting, or pushing the “like’ button. Words bellow forth from these bodies; and laughter, and jokes and questions about your trip. You are moving towards them, getting a little closer, sliding in. And you begin to let it sink in, the physics of the whole thing.

There is nothing to worry about. You have known these people all along. But it’s strange, going from online to real life. Are we still friends in this new format, of breath to breath? Were we ever really friends? I hope it wasn’t all just a stupid game I made up in my head.

You go along with them, answering their questions, saying hello, laughing at the jokes, trying to navigate this new reality.

And then this person reaches out and hugs you. You hug them back.

And it dawns on you that this encounter is surely the embodiment of the digital image you have been dealing with. Here is someone who has warm flesh and hair that gets in your face, who hurts and prays, and who occassionally uses the toilet. Who offers a tight embrace.

The word is made flesh.

And within, I’d say, six minutes, the transitory guard is dissolved, dissipating all around you like dust shaken from a rug. Soon you come to realize that these people were your friends all along. Nothing has changed, except now you are placing your hand on their shoulder, or giving them a fist bump, or sharing your bread at dinner.

And the hugs are like souveneirs you take with you, that will last for a very long time.

Last weekend I met for the first time the other bloggers of the High Calling editorial team for a writer’s retreat at Laity Lodge retreat center in Texas. It was inspiring, memorable, incredible. The photo above was taken from the top of the canyon overlooking the Frio River, where the lodge is based. Wish you were there.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2010 5:52 am

    I was. I was there. And I finally got to meet in person this guy whose blog I’ve followed for a year and a half. I saw him come round a corner at the San Antonio airport, after he had overcome two cancelled flights, and his face literally lit up with a huge grin when he saw the entire High Calling Blogs crowd waiting for him.

    He looks nothing like a camel, though.

  2. October 6, 2010 6:49 am

    Six minutes is about right, Brad. It was good to spend those days with you, but even the six minutes were fun.

  3. October 6, 2010 7:00 am

    It was true for me. I only knew one person there before I went and I came home with a dozen friends.

    It’s that way in many other situations. We are so nervous about meeting people — unsure of what will happen. But they are just as fearful — and normal — as we are.

  4. October 6, 2010 7:02 am

    you put into words what that feeling is.
    i, myself, met two blogger friends in may of last year – after corresponding, laughing, creating and emailing them for about four years, and what a wonderful feeling of Comfort, not only to see them in the light of day, but to actually Touch them!
    brad, you nailed it… but it’s not shut tight, there’s always room for more encounters of the Flesh Kind!

  5. October 6, 2010 7:19 am

    I’m pushing the “like” button on this one :).

    There is the love of fellow man that all of us are called to, and then there is the love of intimates. Meeting you all in person has elevated my love for you to a new place. It was so nice to sit by the river and chat with you, Bradley. To learn about your life, what you care about. It felt…natural, did it not? Some good work going on in those canyon walls. A very special time.

  6. October 6, 2010 7:58 am

    Yep, this is what it’s like. A few moments of disoriented adjustments followed by a tumble into friendship.

  7. October 6, 2010 8:10 am

    Dude… It was great being your roommate during this trip! Your thoughts here resonate so strongly with me. Each fist bump with you and everyone else is something that I’ll hold onto for a long time to come…

    Oh, and sorry for the toilet thing. 😉

  8. October 6, 2010 8:37 am

    Bradley, it was so incredible to meet you and the rest of the team. Your words here are just right…they sum up the feelings we all had, so well.

    Can’t wait to do it again.

    Today, I’m coming off the “high” and feel quite melancholy. I miss everyone!

  9. October 6, 2010 8:59 am

    Bibledude cracks me up.

    I’m so enjoying reading all the posts about the retreat.

    I got to meet Monica earlier this year and Melissa is coming to town later this month and we’ve arranged to meet. I’m waiting for Nancy to come so I can take a train ride to New York City with her. I hope to meet many more of you one day.

  10. October 6, 2010 9:15 am

    Marcus, LL and I were talking about it being a bit like heaven. You think you know, but when you’re there meeting in person it’s so much more than you could imagine.

  11. October 6, 2010 9:17 am

    I was there with Glynn and the rest. I got fist bumps. I got to pour good things for friends. I got to laugh with everyone. So much emphasis on myself seems egotistical–but it is a form of faith. I was there. I touched the group. I put my hands on their hands. I saw their scars.

    The doubting Thomas in me doesn’t doubt anymore because I was there.

  12. October 6, 2010 9:35 am

    So, I was the one who was skinnier, right? ; – )

    Your last line… wish you were there… yes, I felt it too… that there are so many more in the Network who needed to be there, to make it complete.

    But I had a great time with the few, in any case.

  13. October 6, 2010 10:28 am

    Wow. I would pay good money to have you think I was SKINNIER in real life. Why’d you have to say that so many times? 🙂 (I was thinking of the chub rub I would’ve gotten hiking to the river)

    There were prayers sent to envelope you all – I hoped you would see, and love without restraint. It seems like there was no holding back on the real. Good work- eternal and internal was done. This is
    poema………fleshed.

    As I looked at the pictures, I thought – these guys are the Bride, representing all of us. Here comes the Bride………..beautiful!

  14. October 6, 2010 1:12 pm

    It was beautiful. And so are you.

  15. October 7, 2010 8:20 am

    Dan R. – you’re right. We know in part. I see that now.

  16. October 7, 2010 3:05 pm

    I have never gotten to meet any of my online friends, but I know it’ll be awesome. I was SO jealous of the Laity Lodge bunch. 🙂 You guys all rock.

  17. October 8, 2010 10:56 am

    I was fortunate enough to meet up with a fellow blogger at a farmers’ market in WA this summer. It was just as you said and within minutes, I had an old friend. Glad you enjoyed your experience.

  18. October 10, 2010 2:26 am

    very cool 🙂

  19. October 13, 2010 10:07 am

    you’ll excuse a touch of envy?

  20. christianbusinesscrossroads permalink
    October 16, 2010 9:50 am

    Building real community……how wonderful!

  21. October 17, 2010 2:20 pm

    Awesome, Brad. Yep, I figured you might not look like a camel. Total envy, though. Definitely want to meet some of my online friends in my new travels next year. Will have to gather location information prior to launching the RV on the road. Nothing like real hugs, absolutely nothing. Even the angels don’t have ’em.

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