When I tell people that I live in intentional community, a lot of times they look at me funny. So I tend to obscure my answers to their common questions often enough. If I sense someone really actually wants to know, or perhaps will actually somewhat understand what I mean–then I will tell them the whole of it. Either way, people seem to generally either think that I am crazy, or that I am some sort of saint, and go on talking about how they could never do it. Yes, community is quite a blessed and beautiful thing you see. Or at least that’s what we’re generally ok with letting people believe (We also let them believe we’re crazy though too–better not to try to argue your way out of that (or then again of course, maybe we are)).
I suppose it is a part of every person in a community to come to the place of disillusionment. You always knew that community would be hard–or at least that’s what you’ve always been told. And it comes at some point that you realize that life in community is still life, and it is just that: life. You are still who you are. Maybe a little different yes, but not vastly. You have not been transformed by the power of the community. You have not become the saint of quiet wisdom and steady work. In short, community has not saved you.
I never thought of community as utopia, just as the best way to live. Sure I would tell others that it isn’t the only way to follow Christ well or is the truest expression of church compared to the book of Acts. It wasn’t the only way, sure. And in the back of my mind, but it is the right way now. This is what people really need. We have become too individualized and selfish. We have isolated ourselves from our brothers and sisters and found solace in entertainment. We have relegated church to an extra-curricular activity that occupies two blocks of our free time.
etc etc etc.
And the answer to all of this? Community of course.
But the truth is, community is just another place. It is another garden, complete with weeds and rocks, rabbits and insects. We try and put up the walls and structures that keep them out, but soon we find our that our fellow community neighbor is letting them in the back door. And we get upset and blame them for these obstacles and hindrances. Then we realize we are letting them in as well. They are coming from inside of us. None of us are innocent. And our great little garden is just like everyone else’s, still with so many of the same problems.
What we need, or rather, who we need, is Jesus of course. I think the problem though is that we like to need Jesus on our own terms, in our own favorite ways. Most of these ways are of course still not easy, but they are often not as hard as many of the words of Christ in scripture indicate–those words that we tend to pass over for other verses that don’t challenge who I am so much. A Jesus so full of grace and love wouldn’t really confront the way I live, right?
Community certainly has its values. I’m not saying it doesn’t. Community is really great at taking things beyond my own preference and perspective. It gives you other people to share life with, to strive together, to grow with–encouraging and supporting each other. It keeps you from wasting away too much time watching tv. It reminds you every day that life should not be taken for granted, and that each day really matters. And so much more.
But it will not save you. It will not magically make you closer to God or more the person you want to be. If things are going right–and believe me, they are not always going right–then it should be a place to help you along in those things. But it will take work. It will take effort on your part. Sacrifice. Struggle. And not giving up in the face of all those things and more. It’s still on your shoulders. Well, you and Jesus of course. And it’s usually better if he carries more of the load. More than you. And more than the community.