We’ve been spending the past few weeks talking about community at The Refuge. Everyone who knows me knows I love community. I love relationships. I love people connecting with God and each other. I love to see someone who thinks they are unlovable start to feel loved because I remember how much that meant to me a long time ago. But it’s not just a love thing. Please do not think I have some crazy idealistic view of community, thinking it’s a piece of cake to pull off. Real community is brutally hard, maybe one of the hardest things we can do as human beings.
Every church values community, this is nothing new. Look on every church website and you will see a list of small groups and ways for community to “happen” at a church. Why are so many strategies necessary to pull off “community”? Why is it not just our natural bent to want to be together, love each other, share our lives with each other, and reach out to others and love them, too?
Because we are all messed up. Most of us have a love-hate thing with community. I know I do. I want it. I want people in my life, to know how I’m really doing, to care about me, to pray for me, to carry my burdens when they are too heavy for me. And I also don’t want it. Why? Because it’s hard. It’s easier to go solo. Having people in my life exposes me. They see things I don’t really want them to see. They force me to think about things I don’t want to. It means I will have to sacrifice time, myself. It means I will have to trust, risk, and I’m a scaredy-cat at heart.
Like most of us, I’m sort of in this double bind. I love community. I want it. And at the same time, I hate community.
Here’s why I hate community:
1. It’s time consuming. I’ll have to be inconvenienced.
2. I am sure to get hurt.
3. It forces me to think about things differently. Everyone won’t agree with me (what’s wrong with them?) and that stinks.
4. It messes with my self-centeredness.
5. I’m asking to be annoyed, irritated, frustrated, angered, disappointed.
6. I’ll let others down, fail them, disappoint them; I’m a tried and true people-pleaser, so this is asking for trouble.
7. I’ll actually have to ask for help.
8. I won’t be able to fake it.
9. It won’t be neat and tidy (what I’m always longing for). In fact, it’ll be messy, crazy, hard and unpredictable.
Okay, so with all of these negatives, is it really worth it? I think so. For me, the loves are definitely starting to outweigh the hates.
Why I love community:
1. It’s worth the time. Jesus was about people, bottom line. Relationships are what matter. At the end of the day I won’t remember my job, my house, my stuff. I’ll remember the people I loved and that loved me.
2. It’s a place to practice becoming a better lover—of God, of people. I definitely need a place to practice. How can we live out the 2 greatest commandments Jesus gave us…“love Him, love others” without at least trying for close, intimate relationship with each other?
3. It inspires me to keep going. The courage you have—to keep fighting, living, trying—makes me want to, too.
4. The laughter. Without it, I don’t know where I’d be. It is sustaining. Life is too hard without it.
5. I can talk grace and forgiveness until I’m blue in the face, but unless I have to give it, receive it, it means nothing. I want it to mean something.
6. It keeps pointing me toward God. The more I hang around other people and listen, I am forced to think more, ask more questions, seek, wonder, question, wrestle.
7. It is glorious to be up close and personal with Jesus moving in a life, changing a person, healing, bringing hope. Nothing is more beautiful.
8. You seem to keep loving me no matter what, and for that I am very grateful.
So what do you hate about it? Love about it?