Community That Drains...or Fills?
“Community is only being created when [its members] have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness." -Jean Vanier
Have you ever taken measurement of your daily life to see how you are actually functioning? A lot of us take mental stock by the hour, but what do we typically decide: “Man, I’m really busy but I have to get all of this stuff done….oh well!”
This week I was asked to undergo a simple, but revealing process about how well I am currently functioning. I was given 14 different areas of life (spiritual, physical, emotional, relationships with others, eating habits, exercise routine, work etc.) and asked to gauge how well I felt I was doing in each area on a scale of 1-10. After I compiled the list an average was taken as rough overall ‘wellness’ measurement. This is obviously not a very scientific method but It did give me a very basic sense of how I am doing across a lot of areas of life (the results were not very positive….)
I realized how many seemingly small areas contribute to my overall wellness. Neglecting one area will bring my average down, even if I’m doing well in a lot of other areas of life. I would encourage you to do the same - choose whatever areas you want to measure, you can be as specific or as general as you want.
But there is a tension.
In my reading of Acts this week I saw Ananias and Sapphira sell their land and withhold some of the money from the fellowship of believers. I have normally seen their subsequent immediate death as a judgment on their unwillingness to be financially generous - focusing more on their refusal to fully give of their profits. However, what stood out to me this week was more their unwillingness to be fully in with their community. They looked at what they were a part of and decided they needed to look out for themselves. It was a lack of trust of everyone around them, a selfish decision that ultimately caused a lot of brokenness in their immediate community (can you imagine seeing two friends die in front of you as a result of their selfishness?)
The vulnerability and trust involved with being ‘fully in’ with a community is difficult. You are giving up parts of your independence and submitting to the reality that the whole may disagree with you, differ from the direction you want to go and in the end challenge you. Being “fully in” means being asked to do things that will require sacrifice, spending time with people that you would rather not spend time with, and often adding one more thing to your schedule...
So how do we take accurate stock of where we are, honestly admitting most of us have unhealthy balance in several areas, while not withholding anything from each other? How do we not spread ourselves more thin while being more fully invested in each other’s lives?
I think because we are made for community we experience inner fullness and health when we are ‘fully in.’ Communities that are seeking God and building His Kingdom together are experiencing a different sort of life - one that is less concerned with sacrifice and uncomfortable conversations. They are filled with knowing they are loved and accepted, and that they also have others to love and accept. Community becomes less about the things we do and more about who we are with one another. Though it feels like more work to go against our propensity to self-protect, being known by others is where real, satisfying rest can be found.
But how do we do this practically? How do we live in such a way that the moments we have in our community are life-giving rather than one more event in which we are expected to 'show up?'
How do you can you live a more healthy and balanced life while still giving completely of yourself to your community?