Ah, Community! It’s ugly, it’s frustrating, it’s messy, it’s unpredictable, but we all long for it. I'm not sure why, except that it seems we were created to be tribal, to be creatures of a pack, and it is in community that we find our home. We all want to be deeply known and to know deeply. We want to bare our souls to those around us with the assurance that we won’t be loved less. I have written about community before on several occasions twice for the Tough Mudder community HERE and HERE. Then on the actual subject HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
That said, I've been writing a blog series on the idea of soul care and the practices and disciplines one needs to have in place to actually have their soul cared for. After the blogs dedicated to the intro, I decided to focus on four different practices:
This month I am writing about communal practices - community. As I said above, I've written about community on several levels, so I'm not going to go too deep today. After all, if you want more thoughts about community, click above on the other blogs to read more.
At the end of the day, here's the deal:
- It is through community that God forges us into the sort of people that are bent toward Him and the other.
- It is in community that God speaks to us and confronts us by using people that are not like us, that may irritate us, that we wouldn't normally listen too.
- It is in community that we must be committed to the other.
- It is through community that we get to see different sides of God.
- It is through community that we are mutually submissive to those around us and we give sacrificially of our selves, which fights against our selfish nature.
- Community confronts the self, it slays the beast of self-righteousness and lays one bare to be reformed into the image of God.
We often treat the idea of community, much like we treat the idea of pastor - we have degraded it, by making it both more and less than what it is. Because one can build a church, lead a movement, always do the next big thing, or speak with charisma in front of a church, does not make one a pastor, it may make you a prophet or apostle or salesman, but by no means are you a pastor. A pastor is one who gets into the dirt of life with those who are hurting and often doesn't have the time for all the other fluff because they are too busy being in the lives of others. The same is true with community - we find many people today who long to be in community - but they pursue it as if community is created for its own sake - community. While you may find a group of friends who are willing to gather together over niceties and the like - who will occasionally sit around fires over ales, wine, food, and great stories, it is not community that you will find, it is close, but it is as they say, "no cigar." Community is, to use C.S. Lewis's description, formed within a people who are "doing something together", who are journeying on the same path, who are fighting the same fight, who are wrestling with the same truth, battling the same injustice, or building the same work. In his work, Four Loves, Lewis describes friendship this way, "you will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher, or the Christian by staring in his eyes as if he (she) were your mistress: better fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him." Community is about a people who are standing with, maybe sometimes face to face, but often shoulder to shoulder. And it is here, in this sort of community that the soul begins to be cared for. So, what are some attributes of a community that brings soul care to each other:
- A place where you are free to be you - We live in a society, even in the church world, especially in the church world, where one's importance is tied to their celebrity and platform. We can't sustain that personality for too long with integrity. Here is not the place to argue that point, but in our culture, celebrity is a drug (for both the celebrity themselves and the fan) and like Walter White in Breaking Bad, it starts out simple and almost seems necessitated by the work we are doing or need to accomplish, but before long, more times than not, we become addicted to the platform and notoriety, and everything bows to sustaining this cultural god, and our soul becomes hollow and depth is traded for width. This is why it is important to surround yourself with people who are not impressed with you, people who think you're not as cool as you think you are or as cool as your audience thinks you are. This allows the soul to stay grounded in the level of reality, in the fact that you are no more than flesh and blood like everyone else, and this allows the soul to breathe, which is essential for soul care.
- A place where you are journeying together - stagnation is never good for anything. Stagnation always leads to decomposition, and when we are talking soul care, the process of decomposing is not the direction we want to head. We have to be going somewhere, we have to be informed by a same truth that is taking us in a certain direction. It's hard to do this in a society like ours, that's why one of the things we highly recommend to people is to find a cause of some sort and sell out to it, begin to serve it together, work together, do together, etc...this begins to turn us outward where our community no longer exists for the community itself.
- A place where you can be weak - sometimes we just need to be weak. We just need to lean on others, we just need someone to help carry us. Sometimes we need a break from leadership, we need to stop being the rock others lean on and lean on a rock ourselves. That rock is the community. I think it is healthy, especially if you are a natural leader, to sometimes, and willingly may I add, step out of the leadership position, and learn to be secure in just following, in just taking a break, in being small, unnoticed, and weak. I've had a physical lesson in this these past two months - my body had been screaming at me, "take a break, take a break!" But I wouldn't allow it, and the consequence has been a torn pec and a blown out disc - my body needed to be weak, and I forced it to be strong. It is strong most the time, but because I forced it to be strong when it needed to be weak, it is forcing me to be weak for a lot longer than I would like - this is the way of life. Find a place where you can be weak when you need to be.