Community in Real Life

In September of 2002 I lost a lot.  I lost my home.  I lost my classroom and my students. I lost my stuff.  I lost my love of fireworks.  Perhaps my most important loss was the loss of my community.

For better or worse, living on a school campus means you’re automatically part of tight knit community.  There are a few downsides to waking, working, and worshiping with the same core group year after year–especially when you live in the tropics.  As well intentioned as people can be, it does feel limiting when you sneeze and someone two houses away shouts, “Bless you, Sheryl!  Feel better soon!”  When your neighbors microwave sounds like your alarm clock, you might just live a little too close to each other.

As much as you can find “worse”, better outweighs it a hundred fold.  Need a listening ear?  They’re not hard to find.  Sick and need some help?  One of your neighbors is sure to have jello, chicken soup, or some coke to help your stomach.  Need to stay home from school?  Your prayer partner might just double as your substitute for at least one of your classes—and she can stop by your apartment on the way to your classroom to pick up the revised lesson plans.  In crisis? The body of Christ in your own yard will step in to pray and care for you however you need it.

I never realized what an amazing gift this community was when I was in it.  Of course I knew there were great parts of it, but the song might just be true–“you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”  Moving to Colorado has been an exercise in slowly building community.

There was some built in community at my office.  It was (and is) good, but it wasn’t the same.  There was (and is) some in my church, but it wasn’t the same.  It has taken seven years to begin to build community in my neighborhood. I’m thankful for each sphere of my life where God shows me he can restore what was lost–even if it looks very different than I expect it to.

I wrote earlier this week about trying to take care of myself in the midst of WorldVenture’s annual Renewal Conference.  While it exhausts me in so many ways, it also exhilarates me.  Why do I get exhilarated? It’s community in real life.  It’s community the way I think it should be as often as it can.

Some people walk into the conference not knowing a single person there.  Other people enter into a homecoming kind of reunion.  After a day of praying together and a few shared meals, there are very few strangers in the room.  It’s beautiful to hear people unburden their hearts with others who get their lives and their passions.  It’s lovely to see people listen with both their ears and their hearts.  It’s encouraging to see others start to share another’s burden.

We can’t live at a conference.  We can’t sequester ourselves indefinitely.  We need to speak and live the gospel in front of the world.  But this—this community in real life–is something we can help develop wherever we are.

I see it slowly unfolding before me.  I see it in my small group as we intercede for the daughter of one of our members who makes regular trips to the ICU.  I see it in the way my church provides medicine and education and a place to worship for the poorest of the poor a few continents away.  I see it for the way my neighbors care for me when I’m too sick to care for myself  and when I’m too far away to put my recycling out.  There’s lots of community in real life, I just need to keep watching for it.

Where are you experiencing community?

photo courtesy of Lusi on


Today I’m participating in the Faith Jam over on the Faith Barista’s site.  Head over there and see what others have to say about Real Life Community.

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