Wednesday, July 4, 2012

COMMUNITY: all the flaws and beauty to be had

“What we have realized is that community isn’t the romantic ideal so many believe it to be.  It’s hard.  Every relationship takes work and every community has its tragic flaws.  Community always comes with expectations and demands.  It always requires sacrifice.”

 - The Cry, Word Made Flesh by Chris Heuertz

If we were all honest about the realities of living in community, wouldn’t we all agree with the quote above?  When you chose to live in your neighborhood, apartment building, loft…you chose it with this inner ideal of what life should be like.  Some of us choose homes with big yards to enjoy our personal space and some of us choose the apartment building because it has a built in gym, swimming pool, and no landscaping required!  But if we were honest with ourselves, in all our business, ALL of us cry out for community in some way.  Yes, even us introverts!

When Jay and I moved into our townhouse seven years ago, we had NO idea we’d still be here.  Due to the economy, a growing family, and the decision to have me stay at home…well, you see where this is heading.  As it turns out, staying here in our small home has been the best scenario for our family.  And I am so glad we did.  Not only am I thankful that it only takes me 5 minutes to vacuum my entire downstairs or 30 minutes to clean my 2.5 baths, but I am thankful for the relationships we have built along the way.

Building relationships takes time. 

Over that past few years we have seen many of our neighbors and friends come and go.  It’s the very nature of life, AND the very nature of living in a community with a high rental rate. Some friendships are for a season.

I have learned to hold on to each relationship with open hands.  Faithfully, loyally serving my neighbor, but loosely placing them in the Lord’s hands. 

We have one neighbor who lives across the street from us. She lives alone and has become a dear friend.  She serves as another set of eyes for me over my children.  She loves our boys, prays for them when she sees them on the sidewalk playing, and praises them for how much they have grown.  We trade cooked goods, water each other’s garden, and when the winter months are cold and dreary, I check every morning to see if her shades are up.  She knows that if I don’t see her shades open by 10am, I will call and check on her.  We’ve been to the ER together. We’ve prayed for healing over her when she was very sick. And we have cried over the loss of family with her.  We have celebrated Christmas morning together.

And we have down right OFFENDED each other.

As with every relationship, there are sacrifices.  Some we don’t knowingly sign up for. 

At the potential loss of personal space, time, and money, we have gained so much more.

We pray our boys learn:

:: when we make cookies, jam, or ice cream, our first response is always, "who can we share this with?"

:: when there is young child who has fallen off their bike, they run up to them and see if they are okay.

:: when they see another child being picked on at the playground, they will stand up for justice.

:: that the clothing, toys, and items we have are not our own.  They are gifts given to us to bless others.

::when they really want something (ie.the next best toy to be had) or someone so much…that they remember what's more important - to love the Lord their God with all that they are and to love neighbor. 

I believe our God and Creator always intended us to live in community.  When Jesus was talking with his disciples about the most important commandment, this was his wise response:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 
Mark 12v29-31

And as much as this "mother bear heart" wants to lock her boys up inside all day to protect them from bad influences, foul language and perverse humans, I know that we cannot teach these thing to our children without our community.

To all our incredible neighbors and friends…thank you!