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!