The Cost of Community

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The word “community” has become a buzzword in church culture.  How do we build it? Do we have it? What does community even mean?  What does it look like?  All questions that many a church leader has asked (and that we’re asking as we’re getting ready to launch small groups at our church) at some point.  Because, unless you’re a recluse who orders all of her wares on drugstore.com and happily never sees the light of day, we all crave deep, meaningful relationships and choosing to live in community with other people is the perfect way to meet that need.  But living in community costs us something as well.

The purest form of community means no one walks through their darkest valleys alone. It means there’s a shoulder to cry on, another voice lifted in prayer when your need becomes too difficult to speak aloud, and a listening ear when you just have to vent.  Quite frankly, sometimes it’s difficult to do those things for someone, and other times its hard to allow someone to do them for you–because, in both instances, it costs something.  Sometimes it costs a lot.

It costs us our privacy and our independent “I can do it myself, thank-you-very-much” pride, and requires us to be vulnerable in a way that can be incredibly uncomfortable when we’re hurting.  It requires us to allow someone to come in close, to see the pain, the ugliness that we’d rather hide and pretend doesn’t exist.

I was part of a community of wonderful friends several years ago that quite literally saved my life.  It cost me all of the things I just  talked about to be in relationship with them, but it cost them something as well.  It cost them emotional time and energy as well as time to be available as they walked with me through a very dark and difficult season.

To be honest, sometimes I’m not willing to pay the price to live in relationship with people.  Sometimes it costs too much–too much time, too much energy.  Too. Much.  But I have to remind myself it’s worth every sacrifice, every ounce of effort when you emerge with a friend that knows you–really knows you–and loves you no matter what.  That’s the true cost of community, and it’s well worth the price tag.

How has living in community impacted your life?

How has paying the price to be in community affected you? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Living in Community

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 Photo Credit: davidwallace via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: davidwallace via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Community. It’s a word that’s tossed around a lot in the church and something, I believe, that each of us longs for. A place where we’re known and we belong. One of the things I loved and missed desperately about living in India was the community that surrounded us. Our family built relationships there that will last a lifetime. And while I was thrilled when we moved back home to the States, part of me was really missing our India friends and the level of relationship that we shared. We stayed in each other’s homes, shared meals, and were “aunts” and “uncles” to each other’s children. Life moved at a different pace, and no one was ever too busy to make time for some face-to-face interaction.

But that level of community didn’t just happen. Obviously, Jesus was at the center of all of those relationships, but thinking about it, two other ingredients were vital to creating that perfect blend of friendship and love that accepted each other’s flaws and lifted one another up when we were weak and tired: vulnerability and time.

The level of trust/vulnerability that I had with my friends in India was immeasurable. Our shared experiences created an instant bond between us that was difficult to put into words. But when our family came back home to the States I didn’t have that community anymore. Honestly, much of the reason why I didn’t experience that deep community (except with a few close friends) when we came back was because I wasn’t ready–and I was scared. Vulnerability can be scary (but also very rewarding). There was so much that had happened, and I had changed in ways that I couldn’t easily explain, that I was afraid of how people would respond, or if they would even understand. And I was still working through some things with Jesus, and I just wasn’t up to the commitment on a large scale. Because living in community definitely takes commitment. Which leads me to the next ingredient…time.

I could bemoan the fact that, in America, we’re too busy and life moves at a breakneck speed–but I’m not going to do that. Because, while that can be true, I know that we have the capacity to forge those same relationships even in the midst of busyness if we’re willing to make the effort. Our culture shock coming home involved realizing that everyone, ourselves included, had to schedule “hang-out” time, sometimes months in advance. There was very little room in anyone’s schedule for spontaneous get-togethers, but those were the times when we really got to know each other. Our family is moving into a new season of ministry where we will be diving in with our whole hearts and, hopefully :), living in strong community with some new friends. We are so excited just thinking about it!  My prayer for you is that you have that same experience wherever you live. It’s worth all of the time and vulnerability that’s required!

Get Real

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Let's leave the masks to Nacho Libre and Spiderman

Let’s leave the masks to Nacho Libre and Spiderman

On my route to Target (love that place!), there’s a giant sky blue billboard for the Better Business Bureau that declares simply, “Start with Trust.”  That’s a great slogan for the BBB, but for almost anything else in life, especially relationships, such a difficult thing to do.  Those three simple words got me thinking about all the things I place my trust in…airplanes, my deep freeze, my hair stylist, my husband, God, and a few sweet friends.  The more I thought about it I realized that I put my trust in objects much more easily than I do people, and sometimes, even God.  With people, the stakes are so much higher, and the potential for hurt so much greater.  If my hair stylist lets me down and I end up with a mullet–it grows out (I would probably cry every day until it does, but it would grow!)  So far, with each of my many trips in an airplane, I’ve arrived at my destination in one piece (although there were a few trips with Air India that I wondered).  And when my deep freeze was on the fritz and I ended up with a bunch of rotten meat, I was bummed out, but we replaced it.  However, when a friend that I’ve trusted breaks that trust–it hurts, and it’s not something that I can easily fix.  But trust is the starting point of any relationship where we can be honest, transparent, and vulnerable; and if we never get to that point in our relationships we risk never experiencing all that God has for us.

Vulnerability, or it’s cousin–authenticity, is something that everyone craves–I know I do.  But craving it and achieving it are two very different things.  In my experience, you have to first give it to receive it, and that’s hard to do.  It’s never easy to lay your heart out in front of another person.  However, nearly every time that I’ve been honest and vulnerable God has used it to help someone else–and often times that person is me.  There’s so much freedom in realizing we don’t have to be perfect, because none of us are!  I think it would be great if we started creating a culture in our circles of influence where people are free to be vulnerable and honest without fear of judgment or rejection, and instead, they would know that as they share their struggles we’ll be there to encourage them and cheer them on on their journey.  We need each other, and we need each other to be real!