It was easier when I was younger. I somehow just knew I needed community, then. It came naturally. I moved into community with other guys without much thought about the matter. My community then was a pack of boys in my neighborhood. I grew up with those guys. Looking back, it’s amazing how much life we experienced together. Victories. Defeats. On grass. On asphalt. In classrooms. In family rooms.
When I got to junior high and high school, some of that pack still remained. We added new guys; others drifted away. New experiences came: Bikes. Skateboards. Cars. Girls. Socially, things got complicated. Competitively, the stakes got higher. (We could actually cause some damage to each other on that muddy football field.) But, through it all, I had community. Not perfect community. Far from it, sometimes. But, I did have other guys in my life. And, without thinking about it, examining it, we shared so much.
In college, though, I began to pull away from community. I joined a fraternity, but with only part of my heart. The other part of my heart, in those days, was solidly in academics . . . aspirations . . . achievement . . . and that stuff was all about me.
And then . . . Jennifer. I met her near the end of our time as undergraduates. We met in Washington, D.C., doing summer internships. Meeting her was awesome. It is the second best thing that’s ever happened to me. But, that was kind of it for me, with regard to community. We got married right after college—before taking off for the East Coast for graduate school and jobs.
Around that time, things got serious. We were adults. Married. Pursuing careers. And then we had kids. Three of them. We were serious adults, and serious adults don’t really have time for community. It was nothing we thought about; our priorities just shifted. We had friends, sure. But our priorities were firmly on our ascent. Titles. Salaries. Homes. Schools for our children. Very serious things.
And we had a nice time convincing ourselves that we had community. We went to church and even got into small groups. Jennifer spent once a week with groups of women from church. And I tried out a men’s group that didn’t last. The two of us became good at showing up and not really getting involved in helping others, or in sharing what was really going on in our hearts. Community still wasn’t a priority. We fit people in around the edges of what we thought was more important. And if community isn’t a priority, it just doesn’t happen.
That fact became obvious only when things got tough, only when we began to understand that we didn’t know everything—that we didn’t actually know all we thought we knew and we couldn’t do everything well, just the two of us, alone. That fact became obvious only when darkness came.
And when darkness came, we finally relented. When darkness came we got into community. We learned that community, for adults, is the same . . . and completely different. We learned how to make community a priority. We learned that it was, actually, more important than our ascent. We learned that we needed to die to some things, if we were going to do it right. We learned that, as adults, community takes work. It takes sacrifice. It takes true vulnerability. It takes time. And it is good. It is rich. It is fun.
It is joyful, but it costs us something. And now, we’re willing to pay that cost.
That is what’s required of the Holy Entangled.
So, are you willing pay the cost? Are you willing to do what you need to do to have community? Are you willing to quit talking about what others are willing (or aren’t willing) to do for you? Are you willing to begin asking only what you are willing to do for others?
What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced regarding community, as a couple? How is community different than from when you were a child? How do you need community now? How can we pray for you?
photo credit: picjumbo