(This is week two of our emphasis on various examples of spiritual beliefs, awareness, and personal growth. We are emphasizing community. Too many people live in isolation. Other people are too dependent on the opinions of others. But true community includes healthy relationships. It refuses to live life alone. As Clarke Sowell writes, “We need each other.” Read this and ask, “How am I pursuing healthy Community?”)
Community: Have you ever had the, “I’m too young to feel this old” moment? It’s never fun. You think you can handle staying up late, but the next day you check your face for tire tracks thinking you’ve been run over.
Life can do that to us can’t it? A responsibility here; a task that overwhelms us there, and eventually we ask ourselves why we didn’t just stay home on and binge watch The Office. The spiritual discipline of community helps us overcome this struggle. No. I’m not telling you spending time with people fixes everything, but it does make life more manageable.
Being alone isn’t necessarily a problem, but staying alone always is. The more self-aware I get, the more I just have to laugh at myself. If someone tries to push me out into an experience where I’ll be around people, I typically push back and have a borderline identity crisis. I think I belong alone and people just don’t get me. What I’m really struggling with in those moments are insecurities and pride-wondering if I’ll be accepted. So, I sigh, I dig my feet in the ground, and I hermit right there. What makes absolutely no sense though is whenever I find myself in community organically and through my own volition, I love it. I end up being myself, I have a good time, and I realize my island of safety is really a trap set to steal my joy that I willingly walk into time and again.
Something so freeing about being around other people is realizing you’re not alone. Duh, right? But there’s more to it than that. A lot of times we isolate ourselves not only when we aren’t around people, but when we are. We do this judging ourselves assuming we are the only one who deals with what we’re going through. We unknowingly convince ourselves that no one will truly accept us if they get to know the “us” we’d rather keep hidden away on our island of safety. When we finally feel safe enough to introduce our peers to the “us” we’ve been hiding, it’s so liberating. The competition we’ve created is over. And typically, we see that fear and isolation has caused our internal judge to grow our struggles completely out of proportions to their real level of importance.
The Bible gives us an image for believers across the globe. It says that though we may be separated geographically, we are all members of one body. Tell me, what body part can be removed and still make a real contribution to the body? What good is your arm if you cut it off and leave it at home when you go to work? A lot of us face the world as that severed arm-never allowing ourselves to be connected to what will ultimately multiply our effectiveness and impact-other people. Maybe we are so tired and beaten down because one arm was never meant to be enough.
Personally, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Isolation, individualism, and independence—these all start with I. We cling to those things that put us first don’t we? That’s what I did. I had to be first. Every time I went to do something, it was all about me. Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I strong enough? How will I be benefitted from serving this person? How will I be elevated to the dreams I have when I do this task that I don’t really want to do? It was a hard realization to have, but my anxiety and fear had a lot to do with focusing entirely too much on myself.
A lot of breakthrough happens when we practice the spiritual discipline of community. Community happens not simply when we’re ourselves around other people, but also when we encourage, uplift, and strengthen others. We start by being ourselves, but then we look outwardly—to those around us in need. We look for ways to help and fill the need. Do they need encouragement? We meet them there. Do they need advice? We give it, but we’ll take it too. In doing so, we bear one another’s burdens. We offer help to those who’ve been carrying more than they’re able to manage.
If we’re quick to help our wounded bodies, shouldn’t we be quick to help our neighbors as well? The next time you see someone hurting, remember the injury that stopped you. Compared to the whole body a knee is a small thing, but let it get injured and it will stop you in your tracks. Those around us are as significant whether we’d like to acknowledge it or not.
Ultimately, community is really very simple. Genuine people coming together and caring for one another. Let’s not complicate it anymore. We need each other.