I’m sure all of you know me by now, but I’m Jeremy Whittaker. I came to the Lotus house as an intern from Ozark Christian College.  People have asked a lot how I ended up here. Well, almost every degree at OCC requires at least 1 credit as an intern; however, an internship like mine is very unusual, since most students do theirs at a church or some sort of missionary organization. I think I may be the first OCC student in the history of the school to do theirs in an Intentional Community.

I’m not exactly sure when I started feeling the pull toward community, but I know it grew strongest through the dorm life, study, and certain friendships at OCC. I began to long for a deeper way of living among my Christian brothers and sisters, to take Jesus at his word when he said to sell everything and give to the poor, to actually participate in the koinonia of the first Christian community in Acts 2, to share everything together have except our spouses, to gather, break bread, and pray with one another daily … not just on Sunday mornings. Like so many before me, once I heard the call, I couldn’t ignore it. I first heard about intentional Christian community from Alex Giltner, who many of you know well, I’m sure. Though I never really learned much about what it was or what life in one was like, it was always sort of in the back of my mind. As I continued to shape and change what I thought about theology and the Church, I was seeing my own beliefs mirrored in the lives of the communities I would read about in books like Irresistible Revolution. For a while these communities seemed like something so far underground and out of reach that I never made an effort to seek one out; however, last year after a lot of prayer and wrestling I came to grips with the fact that I was just scared it would not measure up to my ideal, and that I had to go for it.

So I emailed Jordan to get in touch with Lotus House about doing my internship here for a semester (which turned into the semester plus a summer). I came on a visit in the fall to meet everyone and so they could get to know me a little. I immediately felt a satisfaction of seeing all these lofty ideals I had been holding on to given a body and a face. After the trip I checked my email literally every day, multiple times a day, until I got the message from Alden that the house had unanimously agreed to have me. A couple months later and here I was. I was immediately challenged by this new way of life when after my second week here, having just lined up a job with my old adversary Walmart, I totaled my newly fixed (and running perfectly for the first time ever) Honda Civic in an icy catastrophe. So I somewhat reluctantly learned a lesson in simplicity and solidarity when I was forced to take the bus, train, and eventually a bike to work everyday. That was the first of many hard lessons.

Living at the Lotus House made me reevaluate the idealism I came in with. A perfect community does not exist, because we are human beings which I believe God purposely made messy and broken. But that is what makes community so perfect: not that everyone reaches an individual level of perfection, but that we can find a harmony together in all our dissonance, and live together with other broken people who will at times drive you bonkers. But it is more than having roommates, which granted carries it’s own woes, but becoming a body with these people, a family. Having to live with others’ messy lives is one thing, but there is something about community that forces you into contact with your own faults. You find things out about yourself. Are you unreliable? Are you passive-aggressive? Are you demanding of others? I remember several conversations with Aaron up on the Third Floor when I was feeling overwhelmed and beaten down and he would share his wisdom and comfort with me, or Thirza would offer me a friendly reminder to stay on task, or Candace would help me plan my day, or Alden would kindly talk sense into me when I was thinking something stupid, or T-Rex would come pawing at my door and jump in my bed just when I needed it, or one of the kids would scream downstairs and I would realize I was being a child. In community we share not only our strengths, but our weaknesses as well; and are stronger for it.

My internship is over and my time at the Lotus House for this season of my life is coming to a close. In this next season, I will be like a young sapling searching for fertile ground where I can lay down roots in community. The Holy Spirit has been so sly in using my new brothers and sisters (and nieces and nephew) for my spiritual formation this year. Their influence was so impactful yet subtle to me that I can hardly imagine who I was before I came. They say parting is sweet sorrow, but right at this moment I see only the sorrow. Bilbo Baggins said, “I am immensely fond of you all, and eleventy-one years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.” Bilbo had eleventy-one years. I had only seven months … far too short a time to spend among such excellent and admirable Christians. Whether or not I will ever return to the Lotus House as a covenant (family) member, I do not know, but either way I will carry this experience with me forever. I can promise you that.