I’ve been thinking about the concept of community a lot this week. I’m referring to community in the sense of authentic, covenant, intentional community. For years, I’ve loved the idea of raw authenticity, accountability, radical generosity, and a uniting common purpose, and for years, I have had a longing for this level of community because I haven’t felt like I’ve found “it”.
This week, I have had several conversations with my dear friends who live all over the map, which is what sparked all my thoughts on community. Each conversation started with the usual life updates, but then each of them went deeper. They went to a place that most often, our phone conversations don’t go. We talked about real heart-issues. There was joy and shame and pain and embarrassment and confession, and it was really good.
And I started to think about my relationships in the context of this sense of community that I so desire, and I began to see major incongruence. The idea of authenticity and accountability appeal to me in a utopian sense, but in reality, I hate sharing about my struggles, anxieties, sins, fears, and imperfections until I feel Christ has redeemed them enough that it’s a rescue story rather than a drowning story (Check out my friend Natalie’s blog about this topic). I’m usually more brilliant at masking the ugly stuff to keep up appearances because if I’m totally honest, people’s approval is more important to me than their support.
And I was struck with the idea that I have had a chance at community for years. I have friends (who may live all over the world) who can be in my life in real, authentic, hold me accountable, and cheer on my successes kind of ways. I’ve just been holding out for the perfect setup, whether that be the “right” church or a non-awkward small group or neighbors who want to be intentional about life. I’ve also been holding out on sharing things that need to be shared because I’ve been keeping up appearances.
I don’t doubt that my longing for in-person community is real and legitimate and good, but the reality is, that I have probably had many opportunities to engage in community that I have avoided because I’m too worried that if I let people in, they might see that sometimes my house is messy, and I often have irrational thoughts, and I have ice cream hidden in my freezer behind the edamame… So whether it be with a friend who lives close enough for coffee, or a friend who lives far enough for skype dates, I want to be authentic, accountable, generous, and of one mind.
What are your thoughts on authentic community? If you’ve found this type of community, how has it changed you? If you haven’t why not? Do you think there is community around you that you haven’t embraced?