Community. I have been wrestling with this word for a few weeks. I read something that triggered old heartache, insecurities, feelings of not belonging. I live in a conservative Midwest, family oriented city and as a 30-something single, I often find myself wondering where I fit. It’s not an easy topic to tackle, human nature is to gravitate towards sameness. For several years I was in a situation where I was the odd man out because I wasn’t married with kids. And I admit I’ve swung the other way now, partly in response to that, where I’m surrounded mostly with singles in my stage of life. And while it’s been a breath of fresh air, I know there needs to be a middle ground. So I’ve been mulling over this word and what it should mean when lived out.
Community is defined as a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule. Fellowship, the word used for the early church in the New Testament, is defined as an association of people who share common beliefs or activities.
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 2:1-4 (The Message version)
An excerpt from the book Now and Not Yet by Jennifer A. Marshall (not me) discusses the corporate responsibility of the church to singles but applies to community as a whole:
“Being single-sensitive does not necessarily require launching more programs and groups defined by age or marital status; it can be accomplished through the intentional integration of singles into the body of the congregation as a whole. The activities of the church should place value on interaction across generations and stations in life. The body of Christ is made up of people from different situations interacting and sharing a common life.”
I look at friends in other places who seem to have successfully incorporated couples, married with kids, and singles in their daily lives. I get jealous when I see that kind of community. Yet God has opened my eyes in the last few weeks as I’ve wrestled with this to show me the community I have around me – it’s not as dire a situation as I thought. I also realize I have a responsibility to create community. I have to be vulnerable and share my daily struggles. I have to make an effort to invite people in, to establish relationships with them. I can’t lay the responsibility for creating community solely on someone else – I have a role to play. I have to invite people in as well as be available when they ask. I also have to make an effort to be intentional in seeking diverse community.
I don’t have great answers to my questions but I know that I have to be intentional, responsible, vulnerable, and available.