People to love.
Hearts to connect.
I love it. All of it. Even the hard parts of living in community bring us closer to understanding God’s abundant, beautiful grace.
Community is not something I think I really appreciated until recently. I remember being in college doing all kinds of dreaming and scheming about how awesome the future was going to be. I figured I’d have some good friends and a good church, but I didn’t think too much about how I’d be affected by them. My mind was more concerned with the cool places I’d visit and the neat things I’d do while serving the Lord.
The problem with my tunnel vision mindset was that I thought about doing a lot of great things for the Lord while having a strong relationship with Him, but I missed the “loving your neighbor” factor. It’s one thing to “love your neighbor” by being friendly and doing nice things. It’s another to actually know them on a deep level. I’ve grown to recognize that when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he means to know them. Jesus wants us to pour into their lives and to experience something real.
It’s not enough to see all these great projects you’re going to accomplish. Projects can be good, but loving people instead of projects is even better. I know I haven’t always done well with this, but I hope to change. I think God’s already been working in my heart, which is why I’m writing the post.
Back in college, I spent some time living in a house off campus with 10 other Christian girls. We were each so different, with our own interests, majors, and ministries off campus, yet we were united under one thing: Christ. I remember prior to the start of the new semester when we were all finally in the house together, we had a meeting. We talked about the mission of the house and a few of us shared verses that we felt could be part of how we’d live missionally together.
I shared John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” It’s a good verse that I’m finally starting to grasp. Even more, I love what Jesus said right before that in verse 12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
When I think back to that meeting and my heart’s intent, I think I really did want to love and serve the girls in my house. Yet, I know that I didn’t truly understand what it meant to love them – what it meant to lay down my life. Laying down our lives the way Jesus did is an act of sacrifice. It means lacking comfort and losing the right to be selfish.
I think I just didn’t “get it” the way I do now.
Now, after experiencing about six months of real, authentic fellowship back home in Iowa, I miss it. I miss the people I call friends. I miss being able to be real – to laugh together – to cry – to know they’re really praying for me – and to just be. Just doing life together is what real community is all about.
Earlier today I was just talking with a good friend about this, and he agreed, having been feeling a similar craving for community.
I think I’ve come to a place in my Christian walk where I’m less concerned with having an adventurous life and more concerned with the souls around me. At one point I had all these dreams of traveling the world and seeing all kinds of amazing places. I even figured I could do the solo backpacking thing. While I still could, I am not necessarily convinced I should.
I’m not saying I’ve given up on having a fun life, either. When I’m in community with people, we have a whole lot of fun! That could include traveling or doing adventurous things, but I don’t want to sacrifice community for the sake of fulfilling a “bucket list” of things I do alone.
For this season in China, I am trying to live in community, even with the knowledge that my time here is temporary. I have a handful of really good friends. I am so thankful for them. Yet, there is still something I long for about the community I have back home.
This is all to say that community is good. It’s necessary. Please, embrace it.