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Recently I just rejoined the world of facebook, and have to admit that it is a bit jarring. I have nearly 450 “friends” but some of them I have literally not talked to for more than a few minutes of my entire life. I want to use facebook to keep updated with what my real friends are doing, but sorting through so much stuff about what a stranger “friend” ate last night makes it difficult. This is why I have decided to make the hard choice to defriend lots of people who I do not really consider a true friend. If anyone reads this then good news: I did not delete you and consider you a friend in the truest sense of the word. That is true even if it has been years since I’ve seen or at least verbally spoken to you.
A major reason for this is an attempt to fight back against the easy nature of adding “friends.” If I declare that I am friends with someone I want that word to have a real depth of meaning. When I find myself “friending” someone I don’t know I fear that I helping to cheapen the word friend. I recently came across a video that claims humans can, on average, not maintain more than 150 relationships. http://devour.com/video/the-innovation-of-loneliness/ But if we cheapen what friends are then having 1000 or more “friends” becomes manageable.
Side thought: In my last post I wrote about dancing and community. However, I just can’t dance with too many people. Before I can dance with you I have to trust you. I hope to better apply this to facebook: I want to trust you before I “dance” with you on facebook.
God, grant us the ability to have real conversations with those who are physically present in our lives. Amen
Recently I was reading through the Mennonite Hymnal and came across this really beautiful prayer (# 736) that says simply:
God of community,
whose call is more insistent
than ties of family or blood;
may we so respect and love
those whose lives are linked with ours that we fail not in loyalty to you,
but make choices according to you will,
through Jesus Christ. Amen
I was struck by how the prayer begins by calling God a “God of community.” As I thought about what this means I realized that when I think of God I usually think of a single god, which is true but misses the fullness of what is. God is singular, but is of such infinite being that God has generally been understood to be (at least by Christians) three distinct persons yet only one God at the same moment. How exactly do these three distinct “persons” form one whole God? I honestly have no idea, but I think part of the answer can be seen by Christians who not only go to a church building together; but share all of their lives together in community.
I have been living here at Lotus house for almost six months now and trying to think about how to sum up my time so far. What I have thought of is that our house is trying to imitate the dance that the three persons of God do in unison so that the three parts can make one whole with no distinctions between the two. There is an old Greek word for this that dates back to early church leaders: perichoresis. The word can mean unity, but I have heard speakers and writers use it to describe a beautiful dance between the three persons of God. I like the image of a God who likes to have fun and dance. Even more, I love the thought that God can dance with more than one “person” at the same time. Nobody gets excluded or even told to wait their turn to dance. All the persons who make up God get to dance together.
I feel like living in intentional community is like learning how to do this kind of all-inclusive dance. The problem is that humans are not God, therefore we do not dance with the kind of Grace that God dances with. We try but we are not as good. Our selfishness stops us of from being able to dance with more than one person at a time. I believe that the best way to go against this is to confess to one another. I don’t like to confess to having left dishes for someone else to wash. If that is hard to confess, then how much harder is it to confess to something serious? It is this kind of embarrassment at not knowing how to dance that makes me (and I imagine others) want to leave the community lifestyle for something easier like living alone in a one bedroom apartment where it is harder to upset people; therefore easier to avoid confessing. The truth is that this kind of dance is not just hard to learn but also very tiring. However, I feel like that is the point. Jesus calls us to live a difficult life. We are not meant to settle for a “community” of an hour or two on Sunday and a game of softball. We are called to share our whole life with one other just as God wholly shares with God each of the three distinct persons that complete the trinity of what is God.
I don’t mean to write this and come off as better than anyone just because I live in intentional community and others don’t. I guess what I want to say is that Christians are called to be wholly invested in one another’s lives; like family but even deeper. It is not only biology that links us together, but God who links us together. Being linked together makes us all collectively stronger, and therefore better able to live out the calling of God’s will in all of our lives. The more intentional we are about sharing our lives together the better we imitate the dance of God. Even though we will mess up a lot, I cannot help but believe that God is pleased with our willing obedience to want to learn the dance. God may even be laughing with us, not at us, but with us.
For those who don’t know yet I recently moved into Lotus House. I honestly don’t know what to write or what to say about myself on this strange thing known as a “blog”, but here is an attempt. I suppose for my first ever (I have never blogged) post I will try to talk a bit about how I found this home and came to join.
To start I never went to church growing up and honestly never believed or respected most of what I heard from Christians until college. Ironically though, I think some of my classmates in middle/high school thought I was a Christian Fundamentalist because I never drank or went to many parties. Truth was that as an only child I was a bit shy and not a fan of large crowds. Even today I really don’t enjoy crowds. I never drank due to a bad family history with alcohol. However, that was enough to convince more than a few people that I went to church. I say all this because when I started college at the University of Evansville I had no interest in frat parties, but I also wanted to connect with new friends. This meant hanging out with Christians. During my time in Evansville I never became a Christian but I did gain a new respect for Christians I had not had before. Suddenly I found that some of my new closest friends were Christians and unlike high school nobody ever tried to trick me into coming to church on Sunday morning.
After an amazing semester studying overseas in England it became apparent that due to financial burdens of going to a private school like Evansville I should transfer somewhere cheaper. During that summer and fall (which I took off from school) I met some people who invited me to church. Although we had talked about and “passionately discussed” the merits of Christianity I decided that I could not dismiss something I had never tried out. In high school I went to a couple of churches briefly, usually because a cute girl would invite me and then the preacher would start screaming about Hell and not speak any intelligible language I could understand. Sometimes churches forget that not everyone is fluent in “Christinese”. Anyway, after getting convinced to check out a church under honest pretenses for once I woke up early one morning and checked it out. Basically it was like my first semester at Evansville. My view about Christians became nicer, and now after my first time really being interested in exploring a church I was able to gain more respect for established churches. That fall I began to realize I was actually believing this stuff and became a Christian.
Just months after becoming a Christian I transferred to Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. I soon came across Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution and also had a chance to visit Reba Place Fellowship and experience what is to this day one of my most memorable church services. As I got to know more people at Truman I began meeting others who were reading this book and looking for deeper ways of living the Christian life. Through these conversations I began to explore what intentional communities really looked like, and also realized that although I had no clue what would really be involved I was longing for this kind of life.
After graduating with my B.S. in history I moved to Elkhart, IN, and tried living in intentional community while planning to spend a year doing volunteer work with Mennonite Church USA. This time was not what I thought it would be. I would end up being in the program for only three months before leaving. However that time was also one of intense learning for which I am truly grateful. It also allowed me to understand in real life what I had only read in books. Intentional community is hard work and I was not really prepared. After this I stayed in Elkhart with some really amazing friends who were willing to let me stay with them until I could find work and afford a place of my own. I was unable to find work and last spring I felt called to move back to the St. Louis region where I originally grew up.
I knew that I stilled wanted to give communal living another shot, so one afternoon in a local library I searched for places in St. Louis and stumbled across the Lotus House. I have come to most Tuesday night meals ever since then. Since I lived a little far from the city they were nice enough to allow me to stay over many of those nights and be a part of life in the house. When a room opened up I asked if I could join and they said yes!