My wife and I are moving to St. Louis at the end of the year. Not a decision we came to lightly. In fact not a decision we came to at all–more of a word of direction we have decided to follow. God has told us that our time here, our time in this community is done.
It’s still something of a shock to me, every time I tell someone or write about it. But what about stability? What about loyalty, commitment, solidarity, and rootedness? Those are the things I focused on so much when we were starting the community. I didn’t want to be a flash in the pan. I didn’t want to let people down. I didn’t want our neighbors to feel abandoned once again by someone else. I didn’t want to hurt anybody.
At the beginning of this year, all of us in the community chose a single word that we felt God was wanting to give us for the year. It’s really been wonderful to see how each word chosen has continued to come up for everyone and speak into hard situations and changes that have happened in our community this year. God is good.
My word for the year is obedience. For the first six months I learned things about obedience. How it is something shared with the father, not a following of orders. How obedience is a surrender to love, and that those who love obey. And how it derives from the latin word that means, “listen.” But never did I imagine that the word would be of such importance because I would need to obey to the point of leaving my community.
And in a way, that’s just the point of it. I was so focused on being committed, on being loyal to the community, that I had, in practice at least, put these values above listening to God. For this is not “my” community. This is God’s community. This is not my life. It is God’s. Do I still hold those values of stability and loyalty? of course. Does that make it hard to understand why God is uprooting us once again? yes. But ultimately it is all about our life with God. Our loyalty and our stability is in God. Community can be a lot of things for us and for others, but it must not take that place in the center of all we do and are.
Maybe one of the hardest things about all this is that I can’t seem to find how to express all that is in my heart. To leave after four years of investing so much of myself in this isn’t at all easy, even if I know that God is in it. To believe that God is doing this not only for my own good, but also for that of the community and that it will be better and stronger without me there is humbling. To have such mixed and deep emotions around it all–I don’t know how to offer them to those who I care about more than they know. I don’t know how to try to tell them that they are not abandoned, that they are not alone, that God is so good, that…and a hundred other things.
And what do I tell myself? I don’t know yet. But underneath all the struggle, below the pain, within the loss, there is peace. Peace in being in the will of the father. In living in obedience as best as I know how. It is scary moving off to somewhere you don’t know anyone, to changing that place you always come back to–home, to somewhere else. It is exciting too though. It is time to write. Space to listen more. A place to figure out what it looks like for me to truly offer life to others, to be fully alive, to keep seeking the land of the living–knowing that his goodness is around me wherever he leads me.
I highly doubt this is the end of community life for us. We are not slipping away into the American illusion (dream). We still hold so many of these values. I hope for future community life. I don’t know what that might look like, or where. But once again it is all about listening to the voice of the Father. He doesn’t always lay it all out for us, and very rarely is it given in advance if he does–for then we don’t need to abide. Our leaving community is not a farewell, it’s a temporary hiatus. At least, I think so. It’s not really up to me though.
Community is just an idea. A practice. A structure. I have wrestled with it for 10 years. I have fought through many disillusions this last year, many of which are on this blog. It is nothing if God is not at the center. And sometimes for God to be our center requires a desert. Sometimes it requires a community. Sometimes it requires emptiness. Sometimes it requires overflow. Whatever it takes. Lord have mercy. Christ be the center. And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.