Tuesday, December 02, 2008

living in community

"I didn't know what to think about the idea of living in community at first. I had lived on my own for about six years, and the idea of moving in with a bunch of slobs didn't appeal to me. Living in community sounded so, um, odd. Cults do that sort of thing, you know. First you live in community, and then you drink punch and die."
[excerpt from Blue Like Jazz, by Don Miller]

I've just recently considered the concept of living in community. You can live in a community and never live in community. I've realized this idea is probably something that would be best learned while growing up and, perhaps, there are people who have lived in community all their lives and don't know anything else. But this is very new to me.

In my mind, living in community is needing and doing thing for others. What I learned, by example, was that if I needed someone's help I was weak. If I needed someone's help I was a failure. So to be a strong successful person I had to be independent. I didn't need anyone. To some extent this was good. But it isolated me from people. I didn't feel strong and successful, so I would keep to myself. I didn't want people to think I wasn't capable of taking care of myself, so I'd never ask for help. This eventually led people to think of me as a snob. I just got the impression people didn't like me, because I wasn't whatever they were (pretty, smart, thin, married, etc.) so I isolated myself even more.

I'd say within the past 15 years I've been able to overcome most of those insecurities. But even so, really living in community is a concept that is difficult for my mind to grasp and my person to experience. I think I am still too wrapped up with myself to be free enough to really be there for others the way I think I should be. The way I think defines "living in community."


Tulipsanticipation said...

What exactly is living in a community?

Phyllis Renée said...

Living in a community would be like the town you live in. But I'm talking about living in community, which I'd say is much like how the early church lived -- having all things in common and giving to one another as needed. Our families, growing up, are communal to a point, but we are taught to become independent and move away from that community.

Desmond Jones said...

I've lived 'in community' like what I think you're describing, for 35 years, and it is just utterly challenging and life-giving, all at the same time.

The passages from Acts 2 and Acts 4 have been very formative of our life, and we have very consciously aimed at the model of the early church (realizing, of course, that the model has to be 'applied' in a social/cultural environment very different from that of the early church).

And of course, analogously to marriage (not quite as intense as a marriage, but there are way more than two people involved), the real challenge comes in working out committed, loving relationships with actual sinners, uh, people. . .

I'd love to discuss this with you more. . . feel free to email me. . .

Trueself said...

I could have written much of this post about me. I was taught those same things about being independent and self-sufficient and not needing to lean on anyone else. What I realize is that I still hold that as the "ideal" and go around feeling a failure when I need a little help from my friends. Yet I too have been accused of coming off as a snob as that seems to be the price one pays for fierce independence and isolation.

FTN said...

Ah Phyllis, it's my favorite subject. What else can I say that Desmond hasn't already written time and time again. I have pages upon pages of stuff I've written on the subject of Acts 2 and Acts 4 and how to apply it to our current culture.

No more hoarding possessions and emotions... Time to share it all! Open up the walls! Death to suburban isolation! It's time for economic and emotional prosperity for all! DOWN WITH THE MAN!

Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.

Bogart in P Towne said...

Asking for what you NEED is a sign of strength, not weakness...asking for what you WANT...well, that is a lot different.

Cocotte said...

I seem to have an aversion to community and I believe it's in part to growing up in a small family (just one sibling). My Dad was an only child as well, so not much extended family on his side.

Independence and self sufficiency were models that I took to heart from my Dad and they have served me well thus far in life.

Unfortunately, it's also led to lots of selfishness on my part. You know how a lot of folks say that they can never say "No?" Well, I have no trouble with that concept.

Jeff said...

I carry a Lego piece with me wherever I go to remind me that I am made to be in relationship. Legos are made to be used with other Legos.

We are all born totally dependent. But soon (age 2 - 26?) we become fiercly independent. And some of us never get over it. But the healthy person learns to be interdependent. (Not co-dependent!)

Some of us can survive with the few we surround ourselves with. Others of us need a "village."

I have found that the richness of life is in the relationships we develop and maintain. It is also a Bible truth from Genesis ("it is not good for mankind to live alone.") to Jesus ("Love God; Love others. Everything hangs on this.")

However, relationships are messy. Anne Lamott says that where there's a "family" there is always "mess and misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and sighs. But it is a family."

Living in community is expanding your family exponentially. And it's wonderful and horrible and rewarding and frustrating; scary and beautiful. Just like family.

Try it, Phyl...

Digger Jones said...

You have a knack for capturing the perfect soulfulness of a theme like this. And that is truly a part of your contribution to this particular community (allowing for the obvious limitations).

Self-reliance and independence are such a huge part of the American ethos that I'm not surprised so many of us struggle with a more cooperative model of living.

I have similar conflicts where being generous and giving conflict with my selfish (and self righteous) prickishness. Able-bodied people should buck up, get to work and stop whining, right?