These past few days I have been mauling over the thought of communal living. While driving on the interstate, while cutting peppers, sipping my morning coffee, brushing my teeth, folding the laundry, and even while picking up the thousandth book from the floor, my mind keeps rolling back to community. I do believe that God is prying open an area of my heart where discomfort resides, and that makes me anxious, wanting anything but to walk into or towards it at all. But it seems I’m not able to shake loose the nagging jabs in my heart, so here I am, going there, and I’m not convinced I’ll like what I’ll find, folks.
There have been a couple of glaring examples in recent weeks when I’ve exhibited a resistance to communal living. Let me explain what I mean by communal living before we get too far: to me, living in community means thinking about the good of others in your sphere of life before or as well as yours and your dependent’s; giving sacrificially to those you love. I have to admit, typing up a public confession that I feel uncomfortable with living in and loving my community makes me cringe.
I sometimes have this inner anxiety rooted in taking care of me and mine. We come first, whether it be our home, our grocery budget, our time, our convenience, etc. (gross, I know). When going to a playdate where we’re packing lunches for a picnic, I pack just enough for us to be satisfied. When going camping, I bring just what I’m asked to bring, and what I think we will need, trying my darndest to stay within the budget. When given the option of staying in to watch a movie or inviting others—friends or acquaintances—to join us, I often choose to just stay in my comfortable clothes, in my comfortably messy home, with the people I feel most comfortable with. When choosing to get my work done efficiently or in the company of co-workers, I often chose efficiency to get home to me and mine. When challenged to think about honoring others and loving sincerely out of a pure heart, I well up with fear of what I’ll have to live without if I do.
I believe at the very core of my being that we were created for community. We were made to be with other people. We see that in our desires to be included, our desires to be known, our desires to be both known and accepted, loved, invited, thought of, supported, cared for and even challenged. When people in my life take the time to listen and really hear me, when people in my life love me well, when I am able to help friends and communicate my love for them—those are the times when my heart feels like it grows with richness and joy.
I confess these things and delve into my understanding of community because I see our world and the state that it’s in. I see people, including me, who are out to protect me and mine. We build hedges around our thoughts and opinions and turn off compassion. We oftentimes stay quiet and holed away when maybe we need to open the door and invite in. When given opportunities to give generously, we oftentimes think of what it will cost us in the long run. When something we’re afraid of confronts us, whether through the media or in our daily life, we lock the doors, close the curtains and build a higher fence, when sometimes the scariest thing of all is the hardness within our very own hearts. We so often care for the people like us. We discuss the “hot topics” or our opinions with people we agree with, but what we really need is to grow in empathy and consider others first.
When we see our brothers and sisters in need, may we crouch down beside them and care, seek to understand, and lay down our pride. When we pull away in fear, we forget that we have neighbors, we forget to consider what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes; we just lace up our own, keeping our blinders on and headed straight to where we feel most comfortable.
I’m asking Jesus now to help me with loving my fellow mothers by having extra snacks in my diaper bag, by picking up their kiddos when they’re crying, by making dinner for them when I’m not sure that we can fit it in the grocery budget. I’m asking Jesus to help me to listen without judgement to a friend I barely know, to help me to respond in love, to help me to see the need of a sister who is grieving a loss, to give me deep compassion for those I disagree with, to honor others as I do myself. I’m asking Jesus now to remove the splinters in the bottoms of my feet that are hindering me from running the race well—that are keeping me from considering the big things too: like the state of our country, the racism that many live with daily that others refuse to acknowledge, the Islamic people who are thought of as terrorists, the unborn babies losing lives and the mothers terminating them, and the list could go on forever.
I think if we begin to care for our corner of the world—if we begin to allow God to prune back the weeds in our hearts, the ones that entangle and snare us and blind us from seeing the need on the other side of the fence—we would begin to see the walls of divisiveness fall. We would begin to see the beauty of honest, true care for others bloom out of the rubble of despair and isolation and division. We would begin to see that when we care for others first, they care in return, and co-dependence becomes the bridge to love. May we see our “me and mine’s” change to “we and ours’” both next door and in far off lands.
I’m sinful and thankful I have a God who, in all His goodness, pays for and won’t let me settle for all the mess that’s in me.