Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No Man (in Community) is an Island

Peeking around the corner of the kitchen doorway, I make sure no one is looking. I silently pick up the stool, move it closer to the cabinet, and stare up at the canvas bags that taunt me. I know I shouldn't, and yet I do. Because it's such a simple task, and asking for help would be silly.

My one hand grips the stool, and the other hand reaches toward the cabinet to steady myself as I step onto said stool. Suddenly, from the living room come the familiar, rebuking shouts of concerned comrades.

"Rachel, what are you doing?"
"Are you on the stool again?"
"Why don't you just ask us for help?"

Because I like doing things on my own.
Because I like being independent.
Add to this that I am an introvert, and my instinct tells me to shirk away from others -- from expecting help, from asking for help, from accepting help.

Learning to live in a new intentional community while being 8-9 months pregnant has been a stretch for me. It goes against my instincts. God has blessed me with three graciously patient and helpful housemates who are not only willing to do what I ask them, but also go out of their way to make sure I'm taken care of. When I'm having a rough day and can barely will myself out of bed or I am overwhelmed with homework, you can be sure that dinner will be on the table, the dishes will be clean, and my water bottle will be filled with cold water.

And yet, I still find myself shirking from such dependency. As long as I remain self-sufficient and separate, I feel a (false) sense of safety. I can keep myself at arm's length and things remain uncomplicated.

Think of your own relationships. When you are acquaintances with someone, you most likely don't ever fight with them. There's nothing beyond surface chatter, and so there's nothing to dig up and deal with. Your baggage remains your own, and things are safe. Things won't get said. Feelings won't be hurt. When you become close to someone, you can no longer hide the things you have so tried to cover up. Things that have been left untouched for years start bubbling to the surface. Your own actions affect the other person, and you are forced to deal with your own humanity.

"God reveals a thousand things in your heart which you swear are not there..."
Fenelon, The Seeking Heart

When we become dependent on one another, there is the risk that things will get messy. But things also get real, and we are able to grow into better people. We learn how to communicate, how to forgive, how to love. We stop living in our self-absorbed little worlds and begin to see the larger world through compassionate, self-sacrificing eyes.

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality."
Romans 12:9-13


  1. well said (sorry I have nothing more to say but I read it all)!

  2. well said (sorry I have nothing more to say but I read it all)!