Guys- I’m going to make an honest confession here: I’m not sure I like community. Do I need it? Yes. Does it sound wonderful in theory? Uh-huh. Community looks cute on TV- like on that show “Extreme Home Makeover”. All the neighbors and friends rally around a struggling family and show up to support them- the construction people come and give them a home that meets all their needs- and then that bus rolls away and there are tears of joy, and smiles all around, and sometimes even a cute puppy in the background for good measure. Ahhh…community. And then…click…I turn it off, and I get to pretend that community ends that way- that it’s always happy, feel good, tears of joy, a bus of blessing.
But real community is kind of…messy, unsettling, annoying, hard work. Community is like what happens when you try to bake anything with children- it’s going to take longer, there’s going to be arguing, and you’re going to get a whole bunch of flour all over the place.
Turns out I don’t want the flour all over the place. I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to plan my things on my time. I don’t like waiting. I’m not particularly good at knowing how to let people help me. I prefer to be in the driver’s seat, literally, which is why I didn’t let my older brother drive at all on a 16 hour drive to see my parents. (I didn’t say I was proud of it.)
And why should I ever be vulnerable ever? Whose bright idea was it to make that a prerequisite for healthy community? And depending on how honest I’m being, I’d tell you I’m between 68-100% positive that my heart is massively selfish and I struggle to really love anyone and everyone. Case in point- I maaaaay have told my husband the other day that I was trying to “not seem selfish” but also “do what I want”. (Like swinging alone for instance.)
I don’t usually say it out loud, but I think that’s an ongoing undercurrent in my heart, an undertow that threatens to suck me in and drown me in the self-absorption I thought was in my best interest.
Turns out community is really great till it’s inconvenient to me. Community is fantastic until it means someone has to see my messy side- my needy side- the yelling, irritable, keeping-record-of-wrongs me. Guys, I can win a complaining contest without breaking a sweat, and as an avid talker I find it easier to gab than listen, easier to use my mouth to complain about something than my hands to work towards fixing it. Community requires that I use my hands and feet for more than just myself. Community asks me to let someone else help me up when my pride would rather hide and nurse my struggles by myself.
Community is beautiful till I realize that everyone else is a mess too and it’s not like we’re all getting more and more perfect at a steady rate. Oh no. The deeper in we get, the more likely we are to step on an emotional landmine of some kind, more likely to find hurt and more depths of our selfishness and yet…and yet I marvel at how my heart aches for community all the same. I marvel at how even the sandpaper of community is actually refining me, sanding me a bit smoother. At least, I’d like to think I’m a bit less likely to give you a sliver today than I was five years ago.
I was made for being with people. My church family might be the best example of that for me…It offers me hope and love, the faintest picture of what I believe heaven must be like. I’m surrounded by friends who I know will laugh and cry with me, keep me in check when I’m being a word I can’t use in polite company, and challenge me to grow and love more deeply through their own love.
Yeah. Community is such a pain. But it’s the kind of pain that keeps me alive, keeps me from being numb, keeps me from dying in a selfish stupor.
What about you? Do you struggle with community? How have you kept your heart vulnerable towards others? How have you learned to give up your own selfishness? I’d love to hear because I so struggle with this myself!