Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Community Is...

Community is supposed to be this amazing thing. Messy yet rewarding; but the reality is I don't see how it actually works.

First, in life I find that there are groups of people that are completely separate. My schoolyard friends that I know through my children, old friends I've known forever that have a special place in my heart, my church friends, neighborhood friends, hobby friends. They hardly ever cross their boundary lines. Church friends stay at church, maybe out to lunch afterward once in a while, school friends I see at school but hardly outside it, etc. The only time they all occasionally converge in on my facebook page, but even then it is nicely compartmentalized.

If I were to gauge community through Facebook, it looks like I have a really good thing going on, but the reality is quite different. There is no interaction midweek. I see these friends in their neatly ordered parameters, never outside it.

I read so many books about how God designed community; how He himself is community (the trinity) One book, by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp says this in their book How People Change

"Being involved with people is time consuming, messy and complicated. From our point of view, it is inefficient, but from God's point of view it is the best way to encourage growth in grace. Our value system collides with God's, but his means for bringing about change in us is best. That means we will have to make time for these kinds of friendships to emerge and grow. We will have to be realistic too. Close relationships makes it more likely that you will sin against someone or that someone will sin against you. There will be times of confession and forgiveness. There will be times when you need to serve someone, even though you feel you lack the resources. There will also be times when you will be served! That may not sound like a challenge, but if you are proud, it is the last thing you want!

These are the very reasons why community is such a big part of God's plan to transform us into the image of Christ. Living in community pushes us to die to ourselves. There will be times when loving others and allowing others to serve and love us will feel like death, but this is the pathway to real life in Christ. The more we understand our own hearts, the more we see that it takes a work of God's grace to transform self-absorbed individuals into a community of love. Being in redemptive relationships shows us our need for change and helps bring it about!"

Theoretically, it all sounds so enticing and yet challenging, but rewarding: Community. People that love and accept you. People that enjoy you.

I really struggle in community. I spent one year being involved in everything my church did and still emerged feeling empty. Of course, you can say that it's my fault; I should be looking to GIVE not GET. I understand that. Yet, there's a part of me that feels that I did give. When asked to do things, I always say yes. I have gone out of my way to further community. I invite people into my little world and enter into theirs when the invitation is given.

My thought? I don't want to be self piteous and "me" oriented but realistically I do wonder if true community is really possible? Am I willing to live in community that pushes me, that I'm willing to serve, that is messy? One that transcends the basic "hello, how are you?" that is the typical Sunday morning interaction?

I am shy and reserved, and yet I try to interact, and then grow discouraged when it doesn't work out, but I realize I'm part of the problem.

This past year I've done none of the women's ministry events with my church. I thought I'd really miss it because I don't like to be left out, but surprisingly I really don't care. I know that even if I went, it'd not satisfy the deep craving I have for true community. I truly am quite "different" than most other women.

I don't think anything will satisfy the craving I have for community. Perhaps I love the idea of community but the actual living it out, in all its stickiness and imperfection bothers me. Perhaps this tension of wanting to fit in yet not succeeding is part of the stickiness.

I really do think that there are certain people that do well in community; that fit in and are a joy to be around. Then there are the others that one invites only when it can't be avoided, in the name of "community" and "Christ." Perhaps there is no such thing as perfect love and community.

Which makes me sad.

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