I had a childhood fascination with Canada. I'm not sure why. My aunt lived in Prince George, British Columbia (PCBC) for a good chunk of my youth, and I like my aunt quite a lot, so that may have had something to do with it. I know I liked the Canadian flag; it had a simple, monochromatic elegance that appealed to me, and a maple leaf still strikes me as an endearing icon. I used to hang the Canadian flag in my bedroom, which I suppose might have called my patriotism into question back in the day. I knew who Pierre Trudeau was--the prime minister of Canada, not the creator of the comic strip Doonesbury. I celebrated the notion of socialized medicine. I subscribed to the comic book Alpha Flight, the serial drama of a team of superheroes whose exploits were underwritten by the Canadian government. I owned a tape by Glass Tiger--the band who recorded "Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone." Yeah, I had a thing for Canada.
You'd think such a fascination would translate into a real comprehension of the country, but you'd be wrong. I trip up on the geography of the place, and I couldn't name the current PM. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak, eh? Sorry.
Last night my ignorant appreciation for Canada in the abstract was on display as I met with the sales team from Cook Canada--the folks who will be selling Deliver Us from Me-Ville in the great white north. You might expect that we would meet over a meal of salmon and back-bacon and Sasquatch jerky, but you would be wrong. We met at a table for ten at P. F. Chang, not far from my house. I don't know about them, but I had a great time, even though I chose my seat poorly and didn't get to interact much at all with about half the table. I suspect I learned more about how a sales team that spends much of their time on the road apart from each other cultivates a sense of togetherness than I did about how their government's prescription drug program works, but that in itself was a great experience: I learned from the Cook sales team a little more than I knew before about what makes for good friendship.
In Deliver Us from Me-Ville the trajectory of the discussion is, roughly, from the kingdom of self to the kingdom of God, from "Me-Ville" to "Thee-Ville," if you're feeling cheeky. Along the way we come to what might be called "We-Ville," that place where we seek the security of one another. It's an important mile-marker, because God is drawing us into the community of his people and establishing his kingdom as a fellowship. But it's also a temptation toward idolatry; in the perceived absence of a God we can't see, we make God's church our surrogate, and inevitably we are disillusioned when a church that can't bear such a burden lets something drop.
Bonhoeffer says that God in his grace "speedily shatters such dreams," that our disillusionment is part of our spiritual development. On the far side of such trauma, if we keep moving, we can come to recognize that true friends take friendship seriously but don't take themselves or one another too seriously. We leave room for one another to be ourselves, and we keep our eyes trained on the invisible God out in front, who still has a destination in mind for us.