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.

8 responses to “Community in Real Life”

  1. Wow, Sheryl, I’ve been thinking about this so much and your blog post just hits home. Trouble is, like you said, when you’ve had an awesome community and then go to none. I wonder what community will look like when we are living in a place that is 99% Muslim. Maybe another one of your readers can answer that for me because they are already living it. Will it be just Rodger and me until God brings others into the Kingdom? After the community we’ve had, this thought terrifies me to the point of not being able to breathe sometimes. I WILL trust God to show me what community means for me in our near future.

  2. Sweet Sheryl, your words always help me see your face. You will always be part of my community- the people I know will pray when I need it, the people who will love me when I’m ugly (inside or outside!), the people who took the time to let me into their lives so I know how to pray for them. A few go to my church, a few live very far away. But no matter where you are, you are part of life for me and for my sons.

  3. I remember similar feelings when I was living alone after college. I’ve learned that community in real life sometimes means time and distance separate but in times of need or important events none of that matters. I’ve also learned (as an extrovert) that community can be small – a few tried and true friends.

    I’m glad RC was good for you. I hope your next training goes well. Praying for you as always!

  4. I identify very closely with Lynne S. Community in our lives right now is practically non-existant. There are a few who come to church, to choir practice, and a lovely core group of ladies at Bible studies I lead, but we are usually only 3 or 4 at prayer meeting, and don’t have a place anywhere to share personal requests and receive prayer. Sometimes it’s hard to keep hoping. Been 3 years so far. I do think I need to really work at developing and maintaining my “international community network,” because that’s the thing that will keep me alive. We are also thinking we need to make the extra effort to get to St Nicolas, our Strasbourg community, more often.

  5. Stephen – Perhaps you should come up with a parable . . . The Kingdom of Verdugo Woodlands is Like a Fish Truck . . .yup. I think that would be a good writing assignment for you.

    Thank you, Lisa!

    Lynne–That’s a tough one–especially when I know your community has stepped up around you this week as your struggling with malaria. When I read your comments, I couldn’t help but think that God will give you community in your new location . . . it will just take some work to get it. You’ve already laid the groundwork for relationship there. I’m confident God will provide men and women of peace who will care for you when you’re alone and not feeling well. I’m confident he will bring others into the Kingdom. I know it will take a while, but he won’t call you away from everything and everyone you know to abandon you. He may call you to loneliness, but never to despair. I think, too, your definition of community will probably need to change to start with. It may get back to what it is now, but it’s not fair to you or to those around you to expect it will look the same in each place. He’s got something big for you. Keep breathing!

    Ginger–I can’t imagine not having you and your sons as part of my life. (Nor can I imagine you being any sort of ugly!) Thanks for sharing life with me!

    Tirzah–thanks for the reminder that community takes on all different shapes and sizes. And more importantly–thanks for being a stalwart prayer warrior!

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