The Good, the Bad, & the Dirty- Lessons Learned in Community
I didn't write my last post, A Foolproof Way of Dealing With Frenemies, with the intention of writing a follow up message, but speaking the words that have long been on my heart became a ripple effect for more junk that felt crowded in my throat. By the way, thank you to everyone who reached out after I published. I want to be clear: I did not write this post to target any one person or situation. Instead, it has been a hodge podge of different stories- pickings from a string of real life events and realities that everyone faces (and no one is immune to)- that led me to configure the most foolproof plan to better love the friends in life that I would rather not deal with. The more years I tick off the master list that is life, the more I realize what the most defining struggle in the land of the twenty something's is: despite popular belief that the hardest battle may come in figuring out purpose, career, marriage, children, bills... (the list goes on)- for me it is community. Friendships growing, shifting, and changing- beautifully, boldly, and sometimes quickly; in ways that are defined by seasons, location, passions, beliefs, intentionality...
It's come to my attention that this particular struggle of navigating adult friendships is not talked about much among peers, but it is happening. And the general response is to silently hunker down and ride the waves. I'm inspired by writers such as Ali Wren, who dive into topics such as authentic friendship. It may not be the sexy tagline right now, but it sure is important, and I have felt a pressing on my heart to shed light into what it means to truly live in community.
My husband's favorite saying right now (which he proudly thought of all on his own) goes something like "if you want true community, you can't live your lives on an island". Part ofKingdom Living Training School is diving headfirst into radical community, causing me to beg the question what even is community?
I've noticed that it is easy to slap the label of community on any old friendship and call it a day. I've even found myself to referring to multiple different groups of friends (all the look like me, talk like me, and think like me, by the way) as "community". But, after this journey of training school, I am inclined to redefine community as a group of ragtag strangers that will go to the batting cages for one another. Age? It varies. Background? It varies. Life season? It varies. There's no rhyme or reason except for the beating of hearts that long for unity and inclusivity. It's not limited. In fact, the words of Shannan Martin in her book, Falling Free, describe it perfectly: "Love is never divided. It always, always multiplies".
Through a series of unfortunate events (or fortunate, depending on which lens is chosen), I realized I'm pretty terrible at this. I like a neat little group of people with no drama and all laughter to be my community. And, as much as it pains me to admit, I don't want to fight for it. When brown stuff hits the fan, I am more inclined to throw up my hands and say "well, this isn't working out!", than to wade through the pain of rejection. But what I have begun to realize is there comes a point in community, or any friendship really, where we hit the conflict wall. The conflict wall is something that happens in any relationship when enough life is shared together, and it's something that can either cause a big enough barrier to walk away from a friendship, or it can be an opportunity that forces us to pick up our shovels and start digging our way through. It is at this wall that we have to decide if the relationship and/or community is worth the sweat it would take to continue on. Whether the conflict wall is resurrected due to moving cities/states/countries/continents, changing of life circumstances, differing of beliefs and opinions, or simply the loss of contact, it's here that we decide if it's worth it to dig.
This is a harsh reality that we all face. It's easy to define friendship using the words "easy", "natural", and "safe". But when it no longer becomes easy or natural, we have to decide if we want to roll up our sleeves and do the dirty work. I've started to realize that this dirty work is quite counter-cultural. If we are not pursued, if we are rejected, if we are left out, then we don't believe it is worth our dignity to keep pushing forward. I certainly have fallen victim to this line of thinking. But when I give myself up to the Truth of the Scriptures, I find a much different story. Enter: Peter and Jesus. Peter, who fell asleep when Jesus was sweating blood He was so freaking stressed out over what was about to come. Peter, who denied Christ not once, but three times
when Christ was out literally saving the world. Peter, who had sort-of-faith-but-when-it-gets-tough-not-really. Jesus came to Peter. Pursued him, regardless of being rejected. Loved him well, despite Peter turning his back. Peter was Jesus' disciple and servant, but he was also Jesus' friend. We can hardly read that and then run away when we feel the sting of conflict in our own communities. We look at the first church, and long for something like that, but when it boils down to it- are we willing to do what it takes to get there?
Through the hard conversations?
Through the confrontations?
Through the tears?
Through the forgiveness (even when it is not asked)?
Through the rejection?
Through the (un)intentional hurt?
Are we willing wade in the mud and the muck that comes in deep relationship to get to the other side? Are we willing to pursue in the name of Christ? Maybe radical community starts with perseverance. Maybe it starts with a supernatural form of grace. Maybe it starts with our palms open, no matter what.