I’ve had a blog post drafted about Christian community for several weeks…about Christ and His community, about our obligation to one another in the Church, about choosing your community wisely…but it just keeps percolating and I don’t think it’s ready to share. So I’m going in a different direction for now.
Over the last ten years or so, my idea of community has changed drastically. I learned as a teenager that “community” was going to church, being a part of a Sunday School class, and attending the extra Bible study on Sunday nights. Yet, for some reason, I still always felt alone as I grappled with life’s difficulties and wrestled with God…it turns out that being in a building with a group of people no more makes a community than does living in a subdivision with a bunch of people to whom you never speak. Go figure.
Towards the end of last year, I grew discouraged by my lack of community here and disillusioned by things like Facebook, which provides a horribly false sense of community that ultimately ends up hurting more than helping. I had over 325 “friends” on my personal Facebook (I kept a separate account for work), and I probably only interacted with about 50 or 60 of those people with any consistency. And I’d guess that only 5 or 6 of those interactions were very meaningful. I was in a season of trying to simplify my life in all areas, so I enacted a Facebook purge and removed over 100 people. If someone had friended me but never sent me a message or interacted with me in any way, they were probably removed. If all I ever saw from someone were political rants or cat pictures, they were definitely removed.
Seriously, I know removing 1/3 of my Facebook friends did nothing to help me build a community here, but it was one of the only things I had any control over at the time. Bringing it down to a more manageable number helped me feel like I could possibly keep up with people and maybe even have some more meaningful interactions.
But Facebook is still Facebook. And I still miss genuine community.
I’m horrible with surface relationships. I can’t stand making small talk just for the sake of making small talk, and I don’t like to smile and nod just to be polite. I like to talk about things that matter, and I like to smile and laugh from my gut because someone said something hilarious. One of my dear friends called recently to tell me that when we first met, I freaked her out because I asked her questions that really mattered, and nobody in her life had done that before. I thought she just didn’t like me–now several years into our growing friendship, she confesses that she wanted to be my friend back then but she didn’t know how to answer my questions. We had a really good laugh over it, and she’s totally used to my questions by now; but we missed several years of being in community together because society had taught us to keep things light, and that life is meant to be lived in private.
Well, society was wrong. And I’m pretty confident that I can now ask my friend anything, and vice versa, and we will always be honest with one another (she can correct me here, if I’m wrong). Because life is meant to be lived in community. Community is intentional. Community is choosing people to let into your inner sanctuary–to show them the good and the bad, to share your joys and your sorrows, to break bread together, to question and doubt together, to work together, to play together…or stated more succinctly, to truly live life together. It is messy. It is beautiful. And it is absolutely vital to life.
I used to try to live my life alone, and then I woke up one day and realized that I wasn’t really living at all. You don’t have to share your innermost fears and greatest hopes with everyone you meet. Your community may just be a few people closest to you. But you’ve got to let somebody in. We just can’t do this life alone.