an inconvenient truth.
I have a hard time with this word.
When I hear it I feel both joy and sorrow. I’ve seen fruit come from the depths of community, but I’ve also had a hardened heart because of it. I want to share those stories because I know you’ve walked there too.
A few years ago I moved to Ottawa. Many of you know this, and many of you have heard stories from this four month stretch of time in which I lived with 20 other amazing humans in a mansion in downtown Ottawa. I’ll probably talk about this season of life for as long as I live, because the best part of it was the fact that it was so purely unexpected. We LOVED living together and even though it was tough at times, I saw the definition of community come to life.
We interrupted each other’s lives and disrupted each other’s souls.
My favourite moments were spent in the drawing room on Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. Everyone would gather for an hour or two of acoustic worship. Just our voices lifted up to the King. It was sweet, sweet melody.
I cherish these moments so deeply. I have them nestled in a safe place in my heart and soul, where I go when I feel nostalgic or simply need to be reminded of God’s goodness over our lives.
While I tasted the sweet beauty of a Spirit-filled community, I’ve also felt the deafening blows of isolation. I’ve sat in my room and watched on Instagram while friends hang out together just minutes down the road while I sit in my room, wallowing in sadness because I failed to merit an invitation. I feel lonely, I feel unwanted, I feel like there’s a hole in my heart.
By today’s standards, true community is an inconvenience. This is why I get a sour taste in my mouth when this buzzword floats around, because I feel like my community in Ottawa was based purely off of convenience. We did after all live together and took part in the same program as each other.
I feel we do the word an injustice when we just slap it on anything. This is why I feel the tension even calling this blog by the name because a true community is one that calls each other out, and does LIFE with each other. I’m not sure you can have that online, and I’m almost positive the best and truest and most beautiful communities come when we’re physically together in person and walk through life by hearing and seeing and listening and discerning in the physical. So that’s why my time in Ottawa will keep it’s name.
The community God envisioned, the one we read about in the Bible, wasn’t easy, it was awkward, and it was hard and uncomfortable and constantly bursting at the seams. It was inviting, inclusive and aimed at reaching everyone. Regardless of who they were.
Let me say that again.
And so, while you can most likely sense that this blog post has no direction whatsoever, I want to share a few thoughts that I am learning about community in these past few seasons.
1. You have the ability to be the invitation. My cousin Victoria told me this a few weeks ago. I wallow a lot and ever since I can remember, really honour the rule of reciprocity. Meaning that something will mean something if it’s reciprocated, and this often applies to friendships. I’ve neglected many friendships in the past simply based on the fact that the other person doesn’t text back, never bothers to make plans or simply fails to make an effort. I know there’s something beautiful when two people show up, but I also want to acknowledge that some people don’t even recognize that they aren’t showing up. Or they forget to text. So, even if it sucks, and even if you feel like you’re the one who is always sending out the invites, be the inviter. Be the invitation. Create the facebook event. Post on the wall. Speak up. Odds are someone else is waiting for you to do it, because they feel like they’re the one who’s always doing it themselves. Maybe you’ll do this for the rest of your whole life, but trust me, God sees it and He honours it.
2. This might feel a bit out there, but I don’t think we can create true community online. This starts to get a bit hypocritical because you are in fact reading this article on a site called “Worthy Community” and you probably found your way here via Instagram. However, I want you to think about all the wonderful things you experience with people when you’re with them in person. Think about how you can see them. How you see their face. How you can see their emotion and get a sense of how they’re doing. Do you get that on social? Nope.
For one of my senior papers last year, I wrote on a book called “Reclaiming Conversation” by Sherry Turkle, and she writes about how we’ve lost the art of conversation, specifically in looking each other in the eyes and entering into the space that is physical conversation. Let’s be real, we loathe awkwardness and online interactions eliminate any risk of being awkward. In fact, I am one of the most awkward humans alive and find myself fumbling over words, like my brain has turned off every time I’m meant to say something important to someone of importance (or anyone who is remotely good looking). This is my biggest struggle as of late, because we’ve created something fun online, but now the mission turns to taking it offline and creating physical spaces for us to be vulnerable with one another. How do we do that?
3. Community is being vulnerable. This doesn’t mean plastering your emotions or heartbreak all over Instagram. It does mean phoning a friend when you’re sitting in your basement sad out of your mind and simply TELLING them what you’re thinking and feeling. It means calling someone up and asking that they come over and just be with you. It means talking about life with people you trust.
4. It’s not about you. Our last post was about this, but I have really had to take some time to think about this more. I thought community was made up of the people who showed up, took part and contributed. But in fact, it’s about God. The book I’m reading right now, called “Life Together in Christ” talks about how we have the ability to make the Holy Spirit the centre of our communities. That’s really beautiful, because when God is at the centre of our group of people, we enter into a new kind of relationship with each other. Suddenly, our friends are no longer out of convenience, or focused on socially constructed friendship, but rather pushing us on to become more like our Father. Imagine what that would be like if all of our communities were truly pushing us towards God? How different would life be? The things I say are rooted in love and aimed at furthering your heart towards God, even if they sting sometimes.
5. Finally, true community is not convenient. Gosh darnit. This gets me, because I love convenience. In fact, I am trying to make my life more convenient ever single moment of the day. How do I streamline life? How do I compact things to accomplish more…when in fact, God can’t be streamlined. He’s so big and so great, that He doesn’t even fit into our imaginations. How could I streamline God? Following Christ is not convenient, so how can community be convenient? It’s messy, freakishly messy, and God honours that. We can’t tidy it up just so it looks nice on Instagram. Maybe photos show that, but it’s inviting the stranger, pursuing the one who keeps walking away, it’s showing up at 3:30 am to drive your friend to the airport, and doing all of the things that the world tells you that you shouldn’t because it’s worth your time, effort and capacity. It’s God taking you outside of your comfort zone in the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual because He’s asking you to make Himself the centre of what you’re doing.
6. Finally (okay actually this time), imagine if God loved us the way we love others. If that were the case, He wouldn’t love us at all. If that were the case, it’d be a conditional case-by-case love, structured dependent on what we do, say, act, think and post to the ‘gram. I know it’s hard to think about even starting to love others the way God loves us, because it’s freaking hard and impossible (after all, we’re not God). That person cheated me, that person lied to me, that person annoys me, that person gets it way too easy, that person has more money, that person left me, that person….the list goes on. But we invite them anyways. We love them anyways.
And so I continue to struggle with this because I’m human, and because I want life to be easy. But it’s not, and I want to remind you that’s actually a good thing because if life were easy 100 per cent of the time, we’d probably forget about God. When my mountain top moments come, quite often I even forget about the journey that God brought me through to get there. I don’t ever want to forget the valleys and hills we climbed together, the trenches He walked with me in to help me stand on the mountain and declare His love.
I want to encourage you to step into an inconvenient thing this week. Something that feels uncomfortable. Maybe it’s buying lunch for someone on your own lunch break. Maybe it’s digging deeper into conversation with someone. Maybe it’s going out of your way to serve. I don’t know what it is, but I know that if embrace that, we’re inviting others to taste even just a little bit of God’s love.