Just over two years ago I discovered something unexpected about myself. I determined that I had a huge fear of being alone. This wasn’t the surprising “something unexpected about myself” discovery. I’ve always known that despite my adventurous spirit and independent nature I long to be connected to others. What surprised me was the realization that at some point I had come to believe that needing company or community showed spiritual weakness. I had skewed things to the extent that I thought God was holding out on giving me the love I desired in my life because I couldn’t be satisfied just in Him. Obviously He desires that I would find fulfillment and ultimate satisfaction in Him alone – but He also didn’t place us here to fight the fight as a one-man team. I had twisted His best for me to be a self-made punishment. “Because you can’t get this right, you will always be alone and you should learn to suck it up.”
When God created the world He declared it (the world) to be good, but He declared that Adam was very good. That could have been it. God and Adam until the end of time. But God looked at Adam and decided it was NOT good for man to be alone. God gave Adam the companionship of Eve.
“Considering what Adam went through to appreciate Eve to the utmost, I wondered how beautiful it is that you and I were created to need each other. The romantic need is just the beginning, because we need our families and we need our friends. In this way, we are made in God’s image. Certainly God does not need people in the way you and I do, but He feels a joy at being loved, and He feels a joy at delivering love. It is a stinking thought to realize that, in paradise, a human is incomplete without a host of other people. We are relational indeed. And the Bible, with all its understanding of the relational needs of humans, was becoming more meaningful to me as I turned the pages. God made me, He knows me, He understands me, and He wants community.” -Donald Miller, Searching For God Knows What
I stole the title of this blog post from a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I actually read “Life Together” as a sort of pre-marital exercise with my husband. We asked a good friend what books they would recommend for us and he responded with, “Life Together.” The book is about living intentionally to develop community within your fellowship… and it’s jam-packed with quality information.
Bonhoeffer begins this small book by briefly describing what Christian Community should look like. As my friend Becca said, “He describes what Christian community should look like and blows up all our expectations and social club ideas that we have made it into.” Bonhoeffer makes a similar point to the quote by Nouwen that we talked about yesterday [“In true community we are windows constantly offering each other new views on the mystery of God’s presence in our lives.”] – that the purpose of Christian community is to speak the Word of God to one another. He makes the point that community isn’t to just find other people in your exact stage of life or perspectives on global events. (I’m generalizing.) The goal isn’t just to be comfortable and pat each other on the back – but to actually do life together. He closes out the book with a chapter on confession, quite possibly a big key to what’s missing in a lot of our community relationships. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16, NLT
“Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community
Let’s see if I can summarize this wandering post. Purposeful community is important. Here are a few items that are changing my thinking and behavior when it comes to community.
-We weren’t meant to be alone. (Genesis 1:26, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
-Pray for like-hearted relationships even if the people aren’t like you. Ask that God would grant meaningful relationships with people of every age and personality type.
-Be purposeful in meeting! Determine that your community will love God, love others, and continue to make disciples. Live and exist on mission! (Hebrews 10:25)
-Confess to each other. (James 5:16)
-Pray for one another.
Life together might be messy, but it’s a gift and one which we should seek to be thankful for every day. Fight for it like you mean it.
Following and fighting for it,