Thoughts on Community
So I have had the urge to start writing down my feelings and thoughts about community, life, purpose and just “being.” Then I remembered our community has a blog! I think only Luke writes in this blog, so I thought I would join. I would also like to write about what is happening in the neighborhood, the farm and just any upcoming events or needs.
The thing that has been on my mind most lately is community and everything that it entails. It has now been three years since we have lived here at Oak Park Community. I can’t believe it has been that long! I remember moving in here with so much excitement, expectation, hope and just a love for this neighborhood and the people I was living with. I couldn’t wait to start meeting neighbors, plugging into the church downstairs and live life “different” from the typical American dream. You could say I was on a “high.” I remember thinking, wow, this life is great and I can’t imagine why anyone would not want to live in community. And while I really do believe in community now and still have hope for it; I have realized how hard and at the same time good, it really is.
I was talking to my friend Lo the other day, and I realized I am going through what seems to be an identity crisis in community. Living in community you cannot hide from yourself or anyone else. For my whole life I have always been the happy one, the nice one, the “cute” one, and the people pleaser. This was always my identity because these were the things people were constantly telling me. Because of this I felt like I had to live up them and couldn’t be anything else, otherwise I was letting people down. While I was most of these things naturally, I felt I couldn’t most of the time be “real” , I avoided conflict to any extent possible and I never really figured out what it was to be me because I was constantly trying to please everyone around me. This in turn makes me have a lot of guilt inside for not being able to please everyone and made me feel like it was not ok to be any other emotion but “happy”, even when I wasn’t. I never really was able to go beyond the surface to see that I probably and not invincible and not really perfect after all. Well, living in community sure brought everything to the surface! I realized I had never had to deal with anything really “hard” in my life. If I did I could just go home and forget about it and everything would be fine. You cannot hide in community. I have realized many things about myself that I wish I did not know and realized that I sure am not perfect. This has been hard and good for me at the same time. It’s hard when you aren’t able to please everyone, to be happy all the time or to just be nice all the time. But, this stuff isn’t real. That stuff wasn’t hard to do. Being real is hard to do. I think this is what Jesus means when he says that when we are weak then we are strong. Even though it is hard to see, and I will never know what that truly means, but I have had many glimpses of that while in community.
Another thing that I have read in many books is the idea that it is hard to have community, when your idea of community gets in the way of community. This has proven to be very true for me. I never really thought I had so many ideas and expectations for what I would like community and mission to look like, and then not being able to let those go. I have realized community and living here in this neighborhood has been really hard for me in a sense because I do carry around a lot of guilt with me. Since we do live in a neighborhood that does have so many needs and there are so many things you could do, it is hard to not feel like you should be doing something all the time. If I am doing one thing, I am feeling guilty because I feel like I should be doing something else. I am constantly trying to feel content and peace within myself. Therefore, because I feel this way and feel very strongly about trying to do everything and help everyone, I feel like I project those on everyone else in the community and therefore think they should feel the same way. I feel like because I am constantly feeling guilt and pressure within myself that it naturally comes out and flows through to everyone else. So, I think well maybe this isn’t the place for me. I bet there is a community out there that shares the same heart and passions as I do! Well, more then likely there is, however, there would probably be other issues. I believe this is how there are so many different churches and church divisions. We just can’t seem to be able to reconcile differences and come to a place where everyone can walk in their roles working together. This is something I value, a lot. I have realized that I value working together as a team very much. However, this is hard because everyone might have different ideas of how that would look. And so, this is the place where we are currently at in our community. How can we look past the differences and work together? Is it possible? Is their hope that this can work with everyone feeling safe, happy and living out their purpose and passions? Jesus says anything is possible, but with anything there is a cost. We must lay down our life for each other. I think this has to be the answer in life and especially community. Lord, help us do this. We cannot do this without you. Amen.