How Community Shapes A LIFE

I have lived in community both broad and small for the last 12 years and it has shaped, molded, torn apart, humbled, refreshed and restored almost every single part of my heart.  I heard it said once, friends are the family we choose for ourselves, which is so very true and community, I think, is the very intimate extended family that God chooses for us. I cannot express how many times I have thought it would be easier if everyone I have lived in community with was also a friend but the truth is they do all become friends and most of the time something much deeper.  The truth is I don’t love community it’s super hard, I love the people (also super hard), who for better or worse, are committed to loving one another. Bonheoffer said,

Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

To be in love with the people, the human beings, is what makes community it’s most beautiful.  The ideal of community life is just that, an ideal.  Nothing about community is ideal and the longer you are apart the more you realize it’s complexity and it’s offering of suffering along with the beautiful gifts that only come because of the pain.  And I think maybe you cannot have the gifts with out the pain.

To survive a conflict, the eat together, the mourn the losses both personal and corporate, to hold each other as you cry, the let is all exist in one jumbled mess of “fertile chaos” is the gift of community.  And the gift only comes if you can welcome others without judgment and expectations of something that most human beings are incapable of offering perfectly, love.  We love poorly, I love poorly and even love, loved poorly, goes a long long way with the bridge of the Holy one who calls us to love, to live as loved, beloved partners in a kingdom come and coming.

The people I have share life with here in Kolkata have an intimate knowledge of me and I an intimate knowledge of them.  We know the twists and turns of everyday encountered together with a common purpose and commitment holding us together.  We know love, love, loved well and love, loved poorly and it is always more than enough.

At the end of a season of stretching through the twists and turns of community life, I find myself thankful and full of gratitude for this fertile chaos of life lived together.  No matter what we have faced, we have faced it together in love.  And it has been enough.

Especially thankful today for my community in Kolkata, Melissa, Brooke, Beth, the women of Sari Bari, for Radha and Shela, Upendra and Gita and for the beloved in Asia, in Kathmandu, Chennai and Thailand who let love shine brightly as an invitation to ever so much more!

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This ugly heart

In all these years, after all this time, my experience of Kolkata continues to form, shape me and reveal that there is still work to be done. This place often holds up a very big mirror to my brokenness and the potential for ugliness. I have often thought, If I did not live here I would have been able to live in blissful unawareness of gifts that come with where I was born or the priviledges that come with my birthplace and even the color of my skin. I would not have to know the extent that entitlement lurks in my heart, as does selfishness and hardness. I would not have know the state of a heart that resents being badgered by someone who begs for their bread and be the one who picks and chooses the recipients of mere pennies for occasional donation. I would not have to know that though I do good sometimes, there is always these lingering unredeemed spaces that punch me in the gut when I most tired, most empty and most ready to hold on tightly to what I view as mine.

I can go much longer without these revelations these days…. Lessons learned over and over, finally sinking in some and yet they do still come and I lose it. I become my own worst enemy and the enemy of love in conquering the many broken paradigms of this place.

Praying for the grace to start again, to let love and compassion overcome entitlement and pride. To let my emptiness be a space for God’s goodness to arise, that I may know clearly once again from where my help comes.