Tonight I sit alone in a quite house – an extremely rare event. I spend most of my time within a few feet – or certainly within view – of my precious little girl, and we are fortunate enough to have Matt here with us quite a lot, as well. Miranda is fast asleep upstairs, though, and Matt went to see a film at the True/False Film Festival with a friend, so here I sit, accompanied by the white noise of the baby monitor and the repeated rinse cycle of the washer (I’m stripping Miranda’s cloth diapers), contemplating a life lived in community.
That’s really another reason a quiet, alone moment is something of an anomaly for me. We believe in living life in community. It’s rare that a day goes by without someone in our home for something, whether it’s weekly community group meetings, informal hangouts, pre-marital counseling sessions, discussions over a meal, or any number of other things. There is a tension inherent in this lifestyle – we love all of those relationships and are so blessed by them, but we also need family time, couple time, and time to be alone. Last weekend we took some time away and had a mini-retreat as a family, just being together the three of us, and it was glorious. Ultimately, though, we do come back to the reality that we love community; we need community.
I was reminded of that fundamental truth tonight doing the reading for my Porterbrook group (that will, of course, meet here tomorrow morning). There are a lot of reasons for us to run from true, authentic community. Western society is totally individualistic, so it’s absolutely counter-cultural. Plus, it’s hard. Why let someone into my life to tell me what they think I should do when I could be free to make my own choices, free from anyone else’s opinions (or at least the knowledge of those opinions or any sense of being constrained by them)? And why take responsibility for anyone else’s life when I have my own problems?
For me it comes back to a knowledge of my own fallibility. As much as I might like to believe otherwise, I am not perfect. I cannot do it all on my own. I have biases and preconceived ideas that affect even my perceptions of reality. I never have all the information. I am tempted to be petty and respond to others out of selfishness instead of love. I need other people to help me see the truth and even to understand myself accurately.
This obviously isn’t a new phenomenon or one that applies to me alone. Hebrews 10:19-25 says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I don’t think that this exhortation to stir up one another and not to give up meeting together just means that we should all sit in the same room on Sunday mornings. I think it means being truly involved in one another’s lives – sharing about our joys and our struggles, being real and vulnerable, asking questions, making decisions together, being open to feedback, requesting counsel from and offering it to others. I think that’s how we’re meant to live. We’re not meant to be isolated, lone rangers; we’re meant to live in genuine community with one another, pursuing God and honorable lives together – and we can’t do it without each other.
God, please help me to love well all these people with whom you’ve placed me in community.