It was good and it was grace and it was gift I never expected; in fact, I had imagined the opposite.
Headed to a place thousands of miles from home where we didn’t know a soul, not speaking or understanding the language, differences in culture and customs, there was ZERO expectation of finding community. Sure, my husband would be meeting people through work, but how long would it take me to meet people. And not just how long, but how?
An overseas move, even if it’s only temporary, requires enormous preparation. With a mile-long Must-Get-Done List, it was easy enough to push apprehension and fear to the farthest corners of my mind–isolation, loneliness, missing my children and homesickness–all lingered as possibility. But I was determined not to wallow in possibilities before I even left home, so I just talked to God about it and asked others to pray.
And then we landed 4,800 miles from home.
Instead of meeting isolation and loneliness, however, we found a warm and friendly people welcoming us into their homes and lives, obliterating misconceptions and perceived barriers and stereotypes.
Germans have a wonderful tradition called Stammtisch, loosely defined as a gathering among regulars. In the past sometimes associated with social status, today Stammtish is all about community, intimacy and common interests(1). Two on-going invites were extend–one my husband and I could attend for dinner each week, and a separate women’s twice-a-month breakfast group–immediately brought me together with the same people on a regular basis. Our common ground was the ability to speak English, half a dozen nationalities mingling as one.
I (re)learned a valuable lesson from the generosity and kindness of these strangers: community matters.
Over the past seven months I’ve imagined what my life would have looked like in Germany without these gatherings; lonely thoughts answer. And though community isn’t limited to those who follow Christ (i.e., stammtisch is not a faith-based gathering), when you share a common faith, roots grow deep and wide…they reach for eternity.
Because it’s important to God we talk a lot about community at incourage; it’s why we created an event to encourage you to connect with the women in your backyard. We know God is relational and we’re created in his image. As early as Creation, it’s clear humans are wired for community because it wasn’t good for the one to be alone.
Finding and nurturing community makes a significant difference in quality of life and is unquestionably worth the effort.
I’ve endured seasons when community was ellusive and I’ve taken for granted times of plenty. Both perspectives inform my response to Lisa-Jo’s question for us this week: “What does community mean to you?”
an answer to prayer (Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.)
an illustration of the body of Christ (“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body…”)
In community, among the company of others…
I’m able to give…and receive.
Wounded places are healed.
I become fully alive, more like myself than when I’m isolated.
And here’s the jaw-dropping paradox:
Community doesn’t happen when I’m seeking community.
Community happens when I’m seeking Christ.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else,
and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
~ Matthew 6:33 NLT
When I was scurrying around preparing for our assignment in Germany, I already mentioned I talked to God about it and asked others to pray. He knew my heart, what I feared would be lacking. I trusted this opportunity was of his choosing, for his purposes.
I didn’t pray for community; I prayed that God would reveal himself in ways we couldn’t anticipate, that we’d trust his leading and be Christ to those who might not yet know him.
I’m a little ashamed to be surprised at the beautiful community we’ve discovered. But isn’t that just like Jesus to respond in a way we might not expect, ultimately far better than we hoped or imagined? How would you complete the sentence, “Community is______”? How has community surprised you?
By Robin Dance who’s currently wrestling time relative to motherhood, stillness and the Divine. If you hurry there’s still time to enter her giveaway for one of Lisa Leonard’s Heartfelt Collection pieces.