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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

"Together" Part 2


Aunt Bonnie at her "Solbakken" Retreat

When I chose my word for 2024 I knew it was nuanced. The word began with my husband, but from the start I knew it was more. TOGETHER was communal. Together was myself and others. 


A couple of weeks before Christmas I received an evening phone call from my Aunt Bonnie. My dad’s sister has long been a special person in my life. Since childhood I’ve admired her, secretly wanting to emulate her. As an adult I’ve noticed something deeper—a familial bond with a spiritual dimension. Our souls seem to be connected. 


So Bonnie called one evening, partway through the Advent season, and she was uncharacteristically passionate. She’d been listening to a podcast, inspired by what she’d heard, and compelled to tell someone about it. She chose me. 


Bonnie had been listening to David Brooks talking about his latest book, How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. 


“You are someone who cares about how people are treated.” Bonnie’s gracious comment was in reference to my blog posts, and I wondered if I could receive her assessment as true affirmation. After all, I’ll be the first to admit it’s one thing to be an idealistic writer and another to practice in real life. 


That said. A few days later my husband asked if I had any Christmas wishes, and I happened to be on my way out the door to pick up a gift for my dad at my favorite local bookstore. “I’m happy to pick up a gift for myself while I’m at it!” Which is how I started 2024 with this TOGETHER word fresh in my mind, along with a very appropriate book to guide my new year perspective. 


“There is one skill that lies at the heart of any healthy person, family, school, community organization, or society: the ability to see someone else deeply and make them feel seen—to accurately know another person, to let them feel valued, heard, and understood,” says Brooks. 


Hold that thought. 


I would describe myself as a person who is practically dependent and intellectually independent. I depend on my husband’s help in all kinds of functional ways, from heavy lifting to paying the bills. And yet when it comes to my intellectual/emotional/spiritual life, I tend to be a bit of a lone ranger. 


Years ago, when I was on staff at a former church, a pastor asked our team to think of the people in our lives who have had the greatest spiritual influence. I claimed out loud that my primary influence has been the Holy Spirit. To this day I’m not sure I’d change my answer. Sure, I can point to people who have played a role. Parents and in-laws. Pastors and Christian friends. Authors of books, whom I’ve never met. And yet I would argue that at a soul level my most profound influencer has been God himself. 


Is this wrong? Am I missing out? 


As confessed in my last blog post, I spent much of 2023 seeking the Holy Spirit to replicate a previous season of spiritual inspiration. And what he showed me is that it is time for me to pursue his presence communally. First with my husband, and then with others in my life. And I’ve taken this prompting to heart. I am entering a new year with new perspective. 


The initial chapters of Brooks’ book have stirred something in me that has perhaps been dormant. This “art of seeing others” is not entirely foreign. I’ve always enjoyed paying attention to the unique personalities and wiring of my people. Children especially tend to feel safe in my presence. I’ve long recognized these as God-given ways-of-being. And yet. I can also be incredibly clueless. Living in my own head without really being present to others. Keeping a distance from human need. And failing to invite others to be present with me. 


There is a whole lot more I could say about this. A whole lot more I am sure to learn. But for now I enter a new year with a sense of anticipation. I’m enjoying a new sense of communal grace. And I am grateful. 


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Indeed, it is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace… (Philippians 1:7) 

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