I have been blessed to live in community.
True, intentional community. There truly is nothing like it. To know that the people you are surrounded by, for this season, completely and utterly have your back. They are in your court. They are your best cheerleaders and the first roadblock when you veer off-course. They weren’t afraid to call you out on your shit (Pardon my use of vulgarity, but I think that is simply the most appropriate word for what I am talking about here: sin, selfishness, manipulation, and the lies we believe far too much.), because they know that, as long as they are operating in honesty and love, there is no threat to your relationship, no matter how uncomfortable or even painful it is at the time.
In college, this was a very special group of friends. As freshmen, we would come together on Sunday evenings and pray with one another. I am so thankful for the one who began this, I forget who it was; I know it was not me, I simply was not that brave at the age of 18. This sacred time bonded us together as we shared both our joys and sorrows with one another. There is nothing quite as beautiful as genuine hearts coming together to cry, even when it is not one’s own grief. That is a beautiful picture of vulnerability that the church of Jesus is called to be for one another. After all, Scripture says:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” – Romans 12:15, NIV
We decided to all become roommates. As roommates, we continued to carve out time to be together. We made dinner together and ate good, homemade food despite the convenience of the dining center is a four-minute walk away. We asked one another hard questions and dreamed about what life had for us, who we wanted to be.
After college, I found this community again, still strong in one of those roommates turned friend turned sister. She and I decided to rent a house and with the addition of one more young woman, we created a new space, a new community. Being in our mid-twenties, attempting to figure out adult life, we determined to call ourselves and our home the Island of Misfit Toys. This was so appropriate, for not only did we ourselves feel like misfits as we navigated multiple job changes, graduate school, and new relationships, but we also had numerous animal misfits come in and out of our care for a variety of reasons. There were two cats, one extremely fat, almost forty pounds and the other with a lame foot. There was also Ocho, the derpy, lovable and loving lab. In this place, we drank tea and gave one another the freedom to not have everything figured out, to be honest misfits and somehow, we have grown and thrived.
When I think about the kind of community I want in the future, I think back to these experiences. It was not all roses, and I apologize if that is the picture I have painted here. There was conflict. There was pain. But there was also grace, which is something that makes all things more beautiful because we first learned how to extend grace from God, who does so perfectly in his relating with us. This brings me to my point: We are created in the image of God. He is a relational being; He has proven this to us time and again in scripture and experience. So why, then, do we think we can do it alone? We can’t. That is a good way to end up in first, stoic pride, and if left unchecked, in a puddle of depression and anxiety.
God created us for community. We NEED one another.
I do not do it perfectly. Confession time: I was raised to believe this. A song my mother sang from the camp she worked at in college (I eventually worked there, too) spoke to this truth. It really should not have taken me twenty years to figure out the immense love and truth in these words; that these words contain at least a snapshot, of God’s heart for humanity:
No one is an island.
No one stands alone.
Each one’s joy is joy to me.
Each one’s grief is my own.
We need one another.
So, I will defend each one as my neighbor,
each one as my friend.
Have you experienced a community like this? What are your strategies for growing community? Feel free to share and comment below!