I realized the other day that my husband and I have felt pretty cut off from our community recently. About 3 months ago we purchased our first house. You know, one of those fixer uppers that sucks the life out of you for a while. Suddenly the weekends that we used to spend barbecuing or playing bocce ball at the park with our friends are now filled with tearing walls out, rebuilding walls, picking paints, tiles, lights, and so on and so on. I’ve been feeling a little out of sorts for a while now but it wasn’t until yesterday when I was standing in the 100 degree Florida heat, painting baseboards and desperately trying to schedule a much needed hang out session with our friends who have recently had a baby, that I realized how incredibly lonely and isolated I have felt lately.
Luckily for me, I had about two hours worth of baseboard to paint and absolutely nothing to occupy my mental energy except for, “Stay inside the lines” so I began talking with God about how I have been feeling lately. He immediately brought to mind a book I have been reading recently called, “Total Church”. I’m only a few chapters into it so forgive me if you pick it up on my recommendation and Chapter 7 is “How to Prepare the Special Kool-Aid”. The chapter I read most recently talks about the phrase, “doing life together”. What does that mean exactly? We use it all the time. I find myself telling other people that I just want to “do life with my community” and then desperately hope they don’t ask me what that means. But this book decides to tackle that question and they come to many conclusions. One of them is this: Doing life together mean doing life change together. Life change is inevitable and can often throw a wrench in the community we have created for ourselves…but it doesn’t have to.
The book uses the example of a couple having their first child. They feel overwhelmed by this new experience and quickly realize that if they are to survive this life change, most things in their life have to change. First on the list, their church life. They don’t have time for weekly meetings, Bible studies and deep talks with friends over wine and cheese anymore. So they reluctantly let those things go until life is a little less crazy…and the church, their community, let’s them.
But this book asks, “What if the life change of having a baby happened to their community instead of just to them?” What a novel idea! Instead of the community allowing the couple to drop off the radar for a few months, what if the community changed the radar to accommodate the couple?
My husband I have one friend in particular who is dedicated to the practice of adjusting with us as our life changes. Every spare minute that she has is spent with us working on this house. It hit me the other day that she doesn’t help us out just because she has a servant’s heart and God has told her to be a good Christian and meet those in need, but also because she truly loves being around us! She is a vital part of our community and we are a vital part of her community and so we do things together, whether they are blatantly fun and entertaining or look more like hard work….and the hard work doesn’t feel so hard when she is around.
Here is the ironic part: One of the reasons my husband and I are spending so much time and effort on this house is that we love to provide our community with a fun environment to “do life together”. We love to have people over to eat, drink, laugh, watch crappy reality TV, make music or whatever. And so we want this home to be a place where they feel welcomed and comfortable. Ironic isn’t it that we are working so hard by ourselves to make a place where our community will feel a part of our family? Going back to the example of our friend, how amazing is it that when this house is finally completed and she comes over she’ll be able to say, “I stained that door.” or “I tore out that wall” and “I built that cabinet.” She has become an even more vital part of our lives because she actually entered into it and built it!
Now, this isn’t a slam on the rest of my community who are too busy with their own big life changes to be involved in mine. We’re at that stage in life where we are having kids, buying houses, selling houses, making big money in good careers or losing big money when careers end. These are all huge changes in life and honestly, they are so daunting to me that I don’t often ask my friends to help me out because I know that their lives are just as complicated as mine. But when I fail to invite them to join in, we all miss the opportunity to band a little closer together.
This may have been a long run on sentence to you that makes no sense but the bottom line is this: I am choosing to look at life changes in my community differently. It’s no longer just about what they need and what I can provide or being a good Christian and doing what I know I should. Its about my community, my Church, and I am choosing to grow up with them…for the rest of my life, whether my life looks like theirs 10 years from now or not.
What do you think? How does your community handle the big life changes? Do you fight to stay involved or has “doing life” turned into “doing lunch”?