“We both belong to the race that knows Joseph, as Cornelia Bryant would say.”
“The race that knows Joseph?” puzzled Anne.
“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds– the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and has pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph.”
“Oh, I understand,” exclaimed Anne, light breaking in upon her.
“It’s what I used to call–and still call in quotation marks `kindred spirits.’”
“Jest so–jest so,” agreed Captain Jim. “We’re it, whatever it is. When you come in tonight, Mistress Blythe, I says to myself, says I, `Yes, she’s of the race that knows Joseph.’ And mighty glad I was, for if it wasn’t so we couldn’t have had any real satisfaction in each other’s company. The race that knows Joseph is the salt of the airth, I reckon.”
—Anne's House of Dreams, Lucy Maude Montgomery
Do you ever meet people who just instantly click with you? It's like you've known them before, even though you have just met. Rarely, I have. It is a wonderful feeling, like you resonate at the same wavelength.
One of my companions was just that sort of friend. From the first hour we met, we were instant friends. We saw missionary work the same way, we were both a bit older, and we were able to pour our hearts into our work and have fun doing it. It really helped a particularly stressful time, and gave me the confidence to be the kind of missionary I felt called to be, even though it was almost the opposite of what I was being taught to be.
Another was one of the investigators. For the first time, I met someone who spoke like I do. Excited, passionate, and not always strictly careful about what she said. But with me it was okay, because I am that way too. Our conversations were probably nearly incomprehensible to anyone else, because we didn't even need to finish our sentences or use correct words to understand what the other one was trying to say. It was amazing.
Like Anne Shirley Blythe, I used to think of these experiences as "kindred spirits," people I don't have to apologize to or work too hard to understand. People who were like me. They are very, very rare.
But as I grow older, I find that sometimes I meet people who don't resonate right off the bat. There is some kind of disharmony or difference. It takes a little more work to understand and love these people. But the relationships are no less amazing when they form.
I think many of us feel alone. We feel like we have to meet people who are like us, see eye-to-eye and have the same ideas about things we do, to feel loved. But I don't think it has to be like that. We don't have to have tons of blog readers, a large family, or hordes of dates to feel loved. And feeling loved isn't a failure in those around you, it's something you have to change within you.
It's so frightening to be vulnerable, to care about people. Most of my life, I've been in the habit of looking the other way when people are vulnerable, giving them their privacy. Sometimes I see too much about people. I see what makes them weak, what hurts them. And when I see it, I feel afraid. I am scared that I'm going to hurt them. I am afraid that by seeing what gives them pain, I have too much power in my hands, power that I'm sure to misuse. So I taught myself to look away, to pretend I don't see it.
But over the past few years, I've learned a different way. I have begun to teach myself to see again. To ask questions. To get to know people. To let them be vulnerable to me.
I can be very open and friendly in person. I accept almost everyone, and have no problem engaging people. But what makes me vulnerable I keep very close to my heart. I swing wide the doors of all the pain that I have resolved, all I no longer feel, but the pain that is deepest I bury. As I have allowed myself to see people again, I have found that some of that real, raw pain—the pain that doesn't have answers yet—rises up to meet them. I feel myself resonating with their deepest, hidden injuries. And carried along with that hurt are the things that bring them joy. The things they love.
Love and pain are so often intertwined.
As I have done this, I have begun to realize that almost all of us know Joseph. Nearly all of us feel trapped behind our own eyes. We don't have to look for people like us, we must look for what is within people that is like us. We must find the things that we can tune to, so we can sing together in harmony. I kind of picture the presence of God to be like that. Maybe some people won't sing the same pitch you do, but everything will harmonize.
Nothing in this life has to be forever. We don't have to keep singing the same tune we've always sung. We don't have to define ourselves by anything we don't choose with a full and loving heart. We can get to know Joseph, even if we didn't before. We can introduce him to others. We aren't limited by what we believe, or even what we do.
So long as there is life, there is hope to be better, different, to break free from the words with which we have labeled ourselves. We can find something of those who know Joseph in anyone, if we just have the patience to learn it.
During Conference this weekend, I will not be worrying about who wants the priesthood nor what they will do to get it. I won't worry about historical problems, or definitions of doctrine. I won't be looking for the leadership to dress down those who do not behave as they should. I am praying to learn better ways to tune myself to the Spirit and to other Children of God. I will try to see if I can't walk away with better eyes to see where I might serve.
I hope you will, too.