You Are Missing From Me
You may have come across the book The Little Prince at some point in your journey through childhood or academic French classes. For me it was both; I read the book when I was studying French in high school. I’ve forgotten more than I learned, a neat trick of math, really. But things stuck with me that have had a lasting impact.
It’s a book about relationships, the Little Prince and the narrator, the fox, and especially his relationship with the small planet that is his own, where his rose lives.
Even reading a good English translation gives us a hearty dose of the power of this story about love, relationship, responsibility to and for each other. But in the French something even more incredible happens, the nature of relationships themselves are couched and framed differently in that language’s grammar.
There are two important lessons in the French. The first is that the verb translated as “to be tamed,” which the fox insists is what must happen between him and the Little Prince, is the French verb apprivoiser.
Unlike similar French words that mean to contain, control, domesticate, apprivoiser means to become dependent upon one another, to become responsible for one another. It’s a beautiful verb that sums up what makes it so difficult for us to simply decide things that involve the needs and wellbeing of others. It’s a word that means we are entangled in a meaningful way, and that we don’t just think we care about each other, in fact we feel each other’s pains and joys. In French, they use a reflexive verb, literally saying “You are missing from me.”
That’s where I think we all are. We are entangled in a communal love for each other, not just in our church, but in all our relationships with family, colleagues, clubs, associations, neighbors–and on and on. And when we care like that for each other, when we have come to depend on each other, the achy feeling we get when we are apart comes from the sense that some physical part of us, a piece of ourselves, is missing.
At church we have been receiving notes along with your tithes, a few of them are in the picture on the first page of this newsletter. They are expressions of “I miss you!” They are sad, and emotionally urgent, and very loving. All the things we should expect from a community of believers in the God Who Is Love, in the Son Who Loved, in the Spirit Who Loves. We have tamed each other. Some of us have long been tamed by the community of First Congregational United Church of Christ, some are in process, learning to tame each other. All of us are aware, on some level, that this community work of love is the most important work we do as humans and certainly as Christians.
The Little Prince, learning from his friend the fox, understands that to love is to invite laughter and tears, and no matter how hard it is to be apart, it’s worth it to be tamed by one another, to belong to one another. And so, while all of you are missing from me, and us from each other, we know that time apart is the way that we are caring for each other, making the kind of sacrifice that will ensure we will be together again when the time is right to laugh and love as a community.