The Other Community: a lesson on erasing lines

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I’ve lived 26 years in this skin.

So, you’d think by now, I wouldn’t be jaw-on-the-floor, heart-overwhelmed surprised when I experience community with somebody.

Why is it so astonishing when someone invites me into their home, feeds me, asks me to be their friend, looks me in the eyes?

And it’s not that we’re friends because we think the same way about all the same things (though that’s what seems safer to me).

It’s that we’re all so varied,  and because of that we’re all pulled deeper in, where we sit and marvel at the creativity of God.

He’s the one who solders our cracked and jagged edges together, the one who says it can all be called good.

A few weeks ago, we all gathered at Drew and Anne’s apartment. We entered in, the boys flew back out the door to roast hot dogs and hamburgers, and I sliced cucumbers for the water.

The few of us girls there gathered into the living room, and they took turns asking me about the boys, girls with piling deadlines asking me how my mothering heart holds up. I looked down the from balcony’s open door and saw Eliot and Isaiah, stomping around, throwing beanbags into a little hole made of wood.

I saw Steven and Drew laugh, saw my husband throw his boys in the air.

There were many worlds gathered into that place, PhD students, a few spouses, friends. In this season, Travis is wrapped up in a few different worlds. There’s the PhD student world, and there’s the parenting-husband world, the faith and community world.

And many times, those are kept separate. But Anne and Drew invited us to merge those worlds for an evening, to erase the lines for three hours, to be exactly who we are, all places at once.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says that there are seasons and moments and spaces for certain things to take place.

This is what we needed that night, what we needed to remind us that we are loved and that everything can come together and that there will be peace.

It’s not the kind of community that stares you right in the face and asks you to respond. It is made up of the rare blessings, the kind of people who are composed of rare pieces—the hospitable and kind ones, the ones that send us home saying, “That was so good. It was all so good.”

It’s the throwing-our-toddlers-into-the-air kind of kindness, the hot dog and hamburger kind of meal-sharing that reminds us that we are blessed and taken care of.  These are the people who ask my husband how he’s doing, who take him out for a drink and tell him that he can do it- be a father and finish this program. There are seasons and moments for everything under the sun, and a community is forever one of them.

May we always be learning that community stretches beyond our expectations, creates new space even when we think we’re all hemmed in, and especially when we are afraid and feel forgotten. There, community surprises us, and our jaws drop to the floor again, and we mutter thank you to the white-clouded skies.

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