A Tiny Excerpt (On Community and the Grace of Remembering)

My Tiny Letter is a bi-monthly newsletter where I share more personal reflections. If you enjoy reading here, sign up for the Tiny Letter and you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my first release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

Today, enjoy an excerpt from this month’s first Tiny Letter. Thanks for reading along!

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1.

The morning light glinting from the water like buried stars; the cotton-candy colored sky; the “Hey there, ‘ello!” from old friends upon entering a room; the peanut-butter pretzels and Kosher salt; the smell of whisky spilt and rubbed into jeans (cowboy cologne)—these are the building blocks of memories. So many experiences truncate themselves into fragments. So many fragments sweeten time.

For two years, I’ve convened on this first weekend of March with a group of friends. There are pastors, businessmen, pastor-business men, and men who’ve yet to decipher whether they’d prefer to be pastors, businessmen, or a long-bearded hermits. We come from different parts of the country, and yet we’ve committed to this yearly celebration of friendship. Perhaps it’s as random as it sounds, but it works.

I first met these men on an invitation from my friend, Winn. He called after my rough winter of life, one in which I drank like a narwhale in an effort to sooth the ache of my youngest son’s illness. When I joined them, I was less than six months sober, and still learning to walk on my foal-legs. In the Carolinas of that first year—2014—we gathered in the living room. I sat cross-legged on the couch and one of the men, Ken, asked what I needed. “Sleep,” I said, and as that word sunk in, I cried, wiped a snot trail across the sleeve of my hoodie. Then I added, “and maybe a few laughs.”

I took Ken at his word. I slept, and slept, and slept. But new friends also sought me out, asked if I’d like to talk. They shared the load, listened as I unpacked the pain of a sick son, of unmet expectations. And as I pushed into these vulnerable conversations with new friends, I learned what it means to find the deeper rest—the rest that goes beyond sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep, the ocean-black sinking sleep. I found the rest that comes when friends give you space to shirk the yoke, when they say “let me run a row for you.” I found the rest that comes from a quiet walk in nature, or a professor who reads hours of Onion articles aloud until the laughter hurts the ribs, makes the wood floors creak. I found the rest that comes from the poetry of morning’s mallards on the water. I found the rest that comes from gathering with friends who are singularly devoted to the Spirit of God, but unashamedly human.

The locations have changed, so have some of the names and faces. But the tabernacling is the same—we are friends, made in God’s image, carrying God to one another, recognizing God in one another. This tabernacling and the recognition of it is a beautiful thing.
2.

This week was my yearly trip to be with these friends. Last night I sat with Andy at the kitchen table, empty wine glasses stained with purple-sediment, the remaining evidence of a good meal. Karen, our house mother, came with an uncorked bottle. She looked at Andy, and he spread thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. She poured. She looked at me, smiled as I waived her off. She said, “I know better. I wouldn’t pour if you asked.” Her shoulders shook as she laughed her way back to the kitchen.

I nursed water, Andy his red wine, and we unpacked an earlier conversation about faith, doubt, and the uncertainty of most things. I shared an idea—two atoms of an idea, really—for a book about remembering, about living out a continual communion of recollection. Forty years old, ordained and still searching in so many ways, he said, “Sometimes I think that the chief sin of man is that we fail to remember. How many times did God command the Israelites to remember? Didn’t Christ tell us to take communion in memory of him?”

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  • John D Blase

    good, good words.

    • sethhaines

      Thanks, friend.

  • Joanne Peterson

    Seth, you speak words of wisdom. I am coming from a place of remembering. My favorite uncle died, and left a hole/whole in many of our lives. He influenced me by loving me by his actions. He was honest in his communication, and was determined in the things that matter: talking often to his Father, family, and friends, honesty, doing things that last, serving, making time for fun. When I heard my cousin speak the eulogy, I am reminded to remember his example, and how it plays out in my life. He often was the example of a father I needed and who my own father didn’t have the capacity to be from his own brokenness and hiding and fear and anesthetizing his own pain, and turning into my own pain. My uncle wasn’t perfect, I can’t remember a perfect man, he had faults, but he also was authentic. It helps me to remember my own history and it is so intertwined with others. What I do matters, and what I do does affect me, other people down to smallest mundane, to the large. Thank you for this word of remembrance. Joanne

    • sethhaines

      This is such a beautiful memory. Thanks for sharing it. Thanks for remembering.