Okay, so maybe you’ve heard the buzzword “community” one too many times, or maybe it sounds cult-ish, conjuring up ideas of hippies living in communes with a lot of smoke and a general lack of hygiene. It’s pretty new concept for me–community, that is, not the lack of hygiene! We got a tinsy taste of community when we lived at Glen Eyrie while Payton and I were dating. The fact that we lived and worked in the same place allowed us to spend a lot of time together, which means you get to see people in their everyday context. Then, at Bible school, we lived in a big building with all of our other classmates in apartments and dorms. This provided the same sort of close, seemingly-inescapable environment. During this past year, we lived on the MTC campus. A friend of mine said that living in old housing is like living in the “village” overseas, neighbors always stopping by, a lack of privacy, constant community events or small gatherings. Sometimes, you see the same people at church, ministry, small group, work detail, class, and parties. It can drive you crazy. But here’s the odd part, I think it’s possible to spend tons of time with people and not actually be a part of community. Before, it seemed like community would just happen if you spent enough time around enough people. I’m pretty sure it’s possible for Payton and I to coast through our time at MTC and never actually live in true “community.” We might feel some of the natural pressures and benefits of community, but true “fellowship” and living life with others in a way that actually has an impact is another story.
I would propose that genuine, impactful community takes WORK…and HUMILITY…and VULNERABILITY…and RISK. All of these make me uncomfortable, especially the last three.
Work–because it means I have to sacrifice “me” time and get involved
Humility–because I have to admit that I need others, and I have to be willing to let others speak into my areas of weakness.Yuck. Exposure of weakness is never enjoyable.
Vulnerability–because, at some point, people have to see the real me with all of my mess, and I have to be willing to open up to get to that point.
Risk- because I have to step out not knowing whether or not people will care or perhaps they won’t reciprocate. And I need to be willing to love others and walk through their mess too! I will likely get some of that “mud” slung on me.
It’s a wild world out there, folks! We need each other, but boy is it messy! Real friendships are hard work, complete with blood, sweat, and tears. And this is the future that lies ahead for Payton and I. We need to understand this outside of the classroom! What’s neat is that God gave me a chance to experience community/fellowship this summer that felt very real (more multifaceted and impactful than in the past). Our trip to Denver really clarified some of the key components of community, but there were some other people that God used as well.
Nan is 70–and it’s not a secret, so I think it’s okay if I say that. I’m pretty stoked about having a friend that’s 70. I’ve never had one before, and it’s awesome. But that might be because that’s just who Nan is. She and I have become good friends over the past few years. I am always refreshed by her love for the Word. She is always learning and applying truth. She keeps Payton and I both on our toes! This summer she and I met every week on Tuesdays and talked about “big picture” stuff, then we made giant salads, drug her kitchen table into the living room and watched the Peacemaker video series while eating. I learned so much from her. I think we both learned so much from our times together, plus she let us stay with her for a week during the summer where we needed to move out of our other place. We ate most of our meals together and it was so great to be able to sharpen each other, all of us like a little family!
The other blessing was prayer group. We met Brad a few summers ago when he came to our prayer group, and he has always joined us in the summer for prayer ever since. Nan was also a part of our prayer group. All of us were able to share real life struggles and pray for one another. Plus, it was usually only the the four of us, so we made a meal out of it and would eat and talk/pray two or three hours. We would also help each other out with things on the computer or rescue Nan when her car stalled during a flash flood. These things made it feel like family!
Debbie and Jackie are old friends from my Glen Eyrie days and on one or two occasions, we were able to get together and talk about life, John Donne, old memories, art, and have very rich conversations about the faithfulness of God and the necessity of living in the truth of God’s reality. I felt refreshed by these times!
Robyn, who is my very dear friend from when I first moved to Colorado (we were roommates at the Glen), gave up a lot of her summer to spend time with me. We went on many adventures, but mostly we watched God use us to mutually sharpen and change each other. The most important lesson He taught us was about reconciliation, which although it was hard, I believe it caused our relationship to be firmly anchored, strong enough to last when I finally head overseas. We also did random-crazy things, which I thrive on…Robyn’s family became my adopted “Colorado family” sometime during my first year there. And when Payton and I started dating, he got sucked in too! I miss not being able to be around sisters and cousins and babies and moms and dads and grandparents. So, they invite us over and bless us by just being themselves, letting us be ourselves, and making us feel loved as we laugh and even go through the trials of life together. They also know how to throw a party with all of the food that reminds me of family gatherings and church potlucks from the Midwest, which increases the feeling of belonging! And we also went on a float trip together down the South Platte River, which turned out to be a day full of frigid water, rattlesnakes, rapids, and really good sandwiches! (The photo below is Robyn and I at our annual Jack Quinn’s birthday dinner–fish and chips and HP sauce are a must!)
This time of blessing will not always be the norm. When we get overseas, a lot of the more natural community and fellowship will disappear as culture and language barriers tower around us. We will have to work to get over that wall. We also know that if we get into a remote context, our spouses and coworkers will be the only close “community” that we have at first. Again, many sociocultural rivers will have to be bridged before we have friends, but we may have to wait five or more years for the fellowship of the body of Christ among those people if God so decides to build his church in that place. This is by no means an exhaustive look into any of the topics I’ve mentioned. There are huge books written about this stuff! These are just some thoughts that God brought to my mind as I was reflecting on the summer and what He taught me through the blessings of the people He put around me.