What Makes for a Strong Community Pt. 2

So it was brought to my attention that I didn’t say anything about my community in Todd in my last post. I didn’t really intend to write a post about community and then forget to bring it back to the community in which I live, sorry about that! I want to tie my last post into the community of the Blackburn House.

As strange as it is to say, we fit into the ecclesiastical definition of community: “a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.” This makes what we’re doing sound very formal and stiff, not something I ever think of our house as or that I ever want to think of our house as. But we are trying to live together according to a certain rule, we wrote out a covenant together of things that we are committed to in living together. It is interesting how something as formal sounding as a covenant can turn from an uncomfortable and unnatural routine into a natural and life-giving way of showing love to each other and the community. So much in our covenant goes directly against the way we are trained to interact with others from childhood. We are so used to thinking first of ourselves individually and what we need to do to benefit ourselves before thinking of those around us; living in intentional community very strongly challenges this. But once we begin to get past the difficulty of being committed to each other it becomes beautiful. And still so hard.

I know that when I write about community I have the tendency to sound incredibly idealistic and naive. I’m really good at writing about the beauty that I see in community and romanticizing what we’re doing and glazing over the difficulty in it. Don’t get me wrong, I do find what we’re doing beautiful and life-giving, but that does not mean that I find it easy. The more I write about community, the more I realize that it does no good to romanticize it and not share the difficulties as well. Going into this project I knew that it would be hard, but I had no idea. It started out hard because learning to live with 4 new people in and of itself is tough. 5 people sharing a refrigerator, 5 people with different habits and needs all thrown into one place, and we’re expected to pray and eat together too? And that was all during the honeymoon period of living with new people. Then there are dirty dishes, weedy gardens, messy living rooms, etc. Then comes the time when we’ve gotten to know each other well enough to share things that are truly hard, that are under the surface and beginning to rear their ugly heads. That’s what community does, it brings those things out: our insecurities, our prejudices, our sore spots and jagged edges we usually do our best to hide from others. And it doesn’t bring them out one at a time, one person at a time, so that we can deal with them in a calm and timely manner. It seems as though it comes right as we begin to get comfortable with each other, and then all hell breaks loose. I’m learning that nothing in community is done in a calm and timely manner, it just hits and we have to go with it as it comes. But this is where the true beauty is. To learn how to love and live with people who have seen your ugly spots, and will continue to see them, and who love you anyway (and vice versa) is a challenge worth pursuing—a challenge that involves a lot of tears and anger, hurt feelings, and blatant disregard at times, but how can we truly love each other if we don’t truly see and understand each other? The beauty of community is the fact that we are committed to each other, so it takes a little bit more consideration before we bail on each other than in the “real world”. We’re stuck with each other, in a lease, in a house, but also we’re connected in a way that not many people are connected to each other. Living in intentional community, praying together, eating together, actually investing in each other is more powerful and binding than most other relationships I’ve encountered.

The more I do this the more I’m convinced that this is how we were created to live; we need each other a lot more than we like to admit. God created us as creatures who need love and who need to love.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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