Blackburn House: How I Learned to be a Real Friend

This week I had the privilege of being a guest writer for Jason Byassee’s newsletter column, “Totally Byassee’d.”  I’d like to share with you all what I wrote as a Year in Review piece about our project:
Last week was Kristen’s last with all of us.  She moved out on Saturday, off to new adventures and new opportunities.  To mark her last meal with us, we prayed for her and each took a chance to speak about how our lives had been different this year because we had known Kristen.  We shared how she had shaped our community’s every day rhythms and intentional practices.  And as I watched these four women, together in this capacity for the last time, love on each other and share how they had been transformed by living with each other, I was struck by how far we had come together.
The fact of the matter is this particular community will never be replicated.  Something will be missing without Kristen.  And something will be missing as Lindsay, Lauren and Erin each move out throughout this summer.  Each of us mean something for the DNA of the Blackburn House; for the DNA of life together.  But I would be lying if I didn’t say it has been a long and difficult process learning to love the community we have and not the community we imagine.  We all moved in last August with an idea of what intentional community means.  As five women moved in together, five different ideas of intentional community filled the imaginary space of the house.  We struggled to fit each other into molds of other intentional communities we admired, we placed expectations on each other that we hadn’t even named to ourselves and we attempted to program ourselves into the “correct” version of intentional community.  We even went so far as to question whether or not we really were an intentional community.  
In so doing we looked past each other to some ideal community.  And to be honest, it was a lot easier to nurse our separate resentments and foster our imaginary ideals of community than to actually look at each other and ask, “What does it look like for me to love you well?  What does it look like for me to be the body of Christ with you?”  
Ephesians 2:19-21 is a familiar verse to many of us, “. . .you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of this household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”  This is the ideal community: the community that becomes one household because it is built on the foundation of Christ.  This is hard and messy because we are all humans, not imagined ideals.  But the only way to avoid being foreigners and strangers to each other, the only way to be members of one household together, is to love each other as Christ loves us: loving our real selves, right where we are, just the way we are.  Bonhoeffer puts it best in his book, Life Together when he says, “[the person] who loves [their] dream of intentional community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter.”   If we want real community, we must have real love: Christ’s love that envelopes us, warts and all.  It doesn’t mean we don’t strive to be better and do better together, but not at the expense of loving our real community.
As our time together came to a close, we huddled around Kristen, prayed for her and handed her a small pin in the shape of a dove.  One of our commitments this year has been to be “open to the improvisation of the Holy Spirit.”  As we’ve twisted and turned and been transformed by each other and the Holy Spirit working through each of us, we’ve learned to love better and be better friends.  The movement of our learning together has kept us steadily, if sometimes unknowingly, moving toward each other.  It has kept us steadily, if sometimes unknowingly, moving toward Christ.  
                                                     Thank you, Blackburn House Ladies of 2012-2013

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