“The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I spent an embarrassing portion of my life standing in the same spot at Target one afternoon.
There were two photos I wanted framed in the family room: Hubby and me strolling on a beach before we morphed into sleep-deprived parents and two cherub faced boys under five who made it worth it.
Domestic diva I’m not, so my right brain was fried numb trying to figure out the style, size and color. Once that decision tree was solved, I proceeded to scan the espresso stained wood pieces with laser intensity to make sure the frames that ended up in my shopping basket had the fewest scratches.
I wanted my photographed memories to be picture perfect, decoratively trimmed.
As the cashier scanned the items, ringing me up, she haphazardly banged them against each other.
She shoved the frames into the plastic bags, while I traded in my ideals for a dose of reality.
I was at a department store, but God taught me this lesson much closer to home.
I had to chuck my idealistic mindset about Christian community — when I found myself sitting at a large round table, heads down and hands folded at a very peculiar prayer meeting.
I was new to the group.
No one likes a new comer to blab, so I made a mental note to be succinct when it was my turn. It was equally important to me to be transparent in addition to brevity, so I shared a genuine prayer request.
I had a rough week and needed God to help me beat the mundane blues of laundry, dishes, and housekeeping. It was as typical as they come, the woe-is-me Moms’ stuff.
Everyone was quietly polite after I spoke, except for the sound of pens studiously scribing. I exhaled. The hot potato landed in someone else’s lap.
As we bowed to pray, I expected a sprinkling of encouragement to come my way.
Instead, uneasiness gripped my stomach as someone misinterpreted my prayer request — and a mini-sermon on the importance of homemaking unfolded, that eerily felt directed at me, rather than God.
Whoa! I wanted to press pause and clear things up.
I dove into a prayer meeting of my own with God instead.
I heard one answer.
I wasn’t so hot on the idea, but God answered my need for a course of action with a posture of the heart.
Letting Go Of Ideals
It’s inevitable. In every community I’ve been a part of, my ideals of community have been shattered.
This is a good thing.
“Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize;
it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
When I let go of my expectations, I come face to face with the reality of relationships.
I discover my insecurities and fear of rejection. I see how easily I put up walls of protection.
It turns out, behind the ideal of community is the ideal me. When that ideal is shattered, I have a chance of finding the real me.
Real community is spiritual community.
Spiritual community confronts the limits of our humanity, so that we turn to God.
True spiritual community is based on a spiritual connection to One Friend who unconditionally approves of us.
Contrast this with human community, which is a social network of friends based on mutual approval. This type of community is based on our expectations of how we think people should interact with us, with God, and others.
I need the real, spiritual community —
- To Free Myself
Spiritual community allows me to return to realism about myself.
– Accepting myself as God accepts me: a person with flaws.
– Interacting with others — without having to hide my imperfections — as God’s love empowers me to grow.
- To Love Others
The degree to which I can accept the truth about myself and others in love determines my ability to enjoy true community.
If you look closely at the picture frames hanging on my wall, you’ll find I used a Sharpie pen to fill in the nicks. The photos are beautiful, but they aren’t real.
What’s real are the people behind the images.
God’s community is the same.
Spiritual community isn’t an idolized dream. It’s a real bride who Christ loves — and I’m learning to love her too.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,
if you have love one for another.”
~ Jesus in John 13:35
Share your thoughts…
- Is community easy or difficult for you?
- What encourages you to enter into spiritual community?
Photo courtesy of Photobucket.