I've heard it used a million ways, I've been sharpened by it, and at times, deeply wounded too. After all, it does involve broken, sinful, flawed people trying to do real life together. It's bound to be messy--and glorious. I think God meant it to be such. For our good but mostly His glory.
From body to body, one life season to another, community has changed.
But as I go into my third year with this body of believers in this little corner of the natural state, I know more then this pretty picture. Ya'll, I get to experience the real deal. And even as these words pour out, the tears follow because God's grace abounds so richly in these brothers and sisters, adopted dads and mommas, grandmas and grandpas with whom He has surrounded me with.
It sounds perfect but it is far from. Just last night I found myself asking God why He has me here, committed to this body when I just keep seeing these flaws. I watch dear friends drift out and eventually find community elsewhere. And I become frustrated with the routine. There are few in my life season and that can feel lonely too.
And then there are moments where I remember why. Why commitment to community, to a specific body, is so precious and valuable.
First off, it's biblical. God commands it. Check out these brief words from Piper.
Secondly, we were created to do life together, in relationship yet serving as different parts of the body. Like last night when I was sitting across the table from this precious fifty-seven year old woman who is one of the most faithful I have known. We had my laptop open, hovering in close as we scoured Pinterest, discussing green ties, rustic table decor, and Japanese cakes while sipping hot tea and rejoicing that in just a few short months she is to marry for the first time. I get to stand beside her.
I saw it two years ago when I was dealing with some tough stuff and a family from church told me to come live with them so we can walk through it together. They taught me how to shoot a gun, love the country, share a room with sisters, and more then I ever wanted to know about snakes. Somewhere in the process they taught me to trust too. Jesus' love had never been more real to me as it was through their sacrificial love for me. They made me want Him more. This adopted mamma gave birth to her tenth baby a few months ago so our latest heart to heart happened sitting in the car, in a parking lot over sonic while nursing this new little one. This is just community, right?
When we gather to corporate worship on Sunday, our voices humming the same tune, despite all of our flesh and failure, I sense it. The desperateness with which we praise Him. The lifting of the weightyness of the week as those words knit us tighter. Someday it will be every tribe and tongue and I cannot imagine. This glimpse is just grace.
When I didn't have a job two years ago, a part of my community gave me one. When they had to let me go after a tough year for the company, someone else in this community taught me to counsel clients and serve as they came through the doors or our church's ministry to those in need while I waited on God's provision of a new job. They knew idol time to be a great burden. They protected me, when I didn't even know I needed it. And everyday, they encouraged me in the word and held me in prayer.
Last week I took the little guy I nanny to play with the kiddos of a mamma in my community. We talked real life while they tossed balls and built leggos. That's what this really means, I think.
Community far exceeds the doors of a building or a set apart day of the week.
This community sent my sweet friend and me to India last year. They prayed us over there and back. Much of the funding came from them too. Then they held us while we wrestled upon our return. When God called me to missions several months ago, they laid hands and prayed. Then we met one on one, me and a pastor, as he encouraged me in this calling and they committed to teach me and someday, be a part of my going.
I don't think there has been one international event this year that my "young professionals group" of friends hasn't served at when I present the need. We are the most random group and Jesus unites us. There are challenges and differences, but they teach me so much.
There are generations in this community. A grandpa who spent years in Africa for the sake of the gospel, and still praises Christ in spite of burrying a child overseas and contracting polio as a teen. He cares for his ailing wife with this love so true it could pierce at a glance. He lets me call him a grandfather, he comes over for dinner sometimes. He always tells me about how we're just waiting for the best one [refering to whoever it might be that the Lord has for me to marry], he tells me this man is gearing up, getting ready. Oh, and sometimes he plays the guitar.
There's a ninety-three year old that we all call grandma. She has traveled more countries then I could dream and tells stories like no other. A couple weeks back we gathered at the hospital waiting for her to come out of a surgery when the future was quite unclear. We prayed a lot and reminisced. She lives cancer free. A couple nights ago I changed the dressing on her incision, as her daughter wanted me to "practice being a nurse." I don't think grandma was such a fan of being my guinea pig.
Once a month I watch these kiddos durng big church. They are busy and halarious. I realize they get to grow up in this community. What a covering, what a blessing. It's the generations to come. It's the ones who have been around for quite awhile. It's the ones in the middle. The ones studying at university, the ones from the other side of the world pondering those big questions.
I see pillars, this legacy God has given. I am so underservng. And yet He is so deeply magnified in our weaknesses, as a body simply meeting to know Him and make Him known. He fixates our wondering hearts on Him in asking us to do life together as we wait. It's like a refining fire, a constant reminder. And I always come out with a greater understanding of my dependency upon Him.
I see it again and again. My need for these brothers and sisters continues to humble me. And His glory displayed in me being apart of them too. And I never thought I would love the church like that.
Praise God!! Only He could use such an imperfect and fallible people to make us want Him most.