One of my Christmas traditions is to get a book about the English language each year. My father, knowing my love of words, started this tradition a number of years ago, and over the years I have received some wonderful books, including ‘Have You Eaten Grandma?’ by Gyles Brandreth, ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss (on punctuation) and ‘That’s the Way It Crumbles’ by Matthew Engel. This year’s gift was ‘Word Perfect’ by Susie Dent which gives me an opportunity to expand my vocabulary one day at a time!
Today’s words include ‘apanthropy’, a ‘state of mind characterised by a love of solitude and a dislike of other people’, which made me smile, as this probably sums up many introverts during the festive period! Susie Dent writes, ‘a surfeit of human company pushes you to the point of latibulation, another pithy word, this time from Latin, from the act of hiding oneself in a corner.’ For me, it’s usually the kitchen where I hide; for my son, the bathroom! (We are dedicated introverts who definitely have a love of solitude!)
However, after twenty months of restrictions which have limited human contact, I have discovered I am not as averse to human company as I thought I was. I still need periods of time on my own to recharge and process, but more than ever before, I have learned the wisdom and truth of the Biblical statement, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone.’ (Gen 2:18)
We all need other people. We were made in God’s image, and the triune God is a God of community. Community and fellowship are essential to the Christian faith. We were not made to worship in isolation; we were not created to be apanthropic. We were made to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom 12:15). Fellowship enables us to focus on what our God has done for us, to share ideas, to be sharpened by the differences we find in each other, to learn to love each other selflessly. Fellowship is not something we can afford to lose or to be indifferent about. We need to spend time together: ‘not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.‘ (Heb 10:25)
That’s why we always try to start the New Year together over a meal, something we will be doing again this Saturday at 4 p.m. Fellowship is an essential part of God’s people gathering together, a reminder that this intergenerational group of people have Jesus in common and therefore we gather not just as random people but as the people of God. (1 Pet 2:9-10) We need each other more than we can ever realise.