Sunday, February 26, 2006

Community and commitment

Every so often, God allows us to enter seasons that are unsettling, even to the point of causing us to re-evaluate everything we profess to believe. In fact, those are the seasons that can lead us to first come to believe in Him and accept His offer of new life. Other times, I think, He sends us a wake up call in order to make mid-course corrections. It doesn't seem like we're really doing anything wrong or bad in and of itself, but if we are praying for His best will, that those little choices could ultimately lead us way off course. Sometimes, like He did with Abraham, I think He sends us a test to give us the opportunity to demonstrate our willingness to walk in full-on faith.

I don't know exactly when this season started. As I type those words, I think maybe my whole life has led me to this point. I'm not certain of the final lesson, but I'm certain of the test. More on that in a moment.

Because this is a public forum, I'm not going to share everything that's going on in my life, but I will offer one bit of it.

Someone dear to me introduced me to something I thought I had experienced, but really hadn't. It's the idea of community and commitment. Now community is one of those words in the Bible that we read and gloss over. We adapt it to what's convenient to our life in 2006. When the book of Acts tells us that Christians worshipped together, ate together, served together, met each other's needs, shared all they had, we sit back and say, "Isn't that nice?" And we go to our big churches, and pick and choose our level of involvement and giving. Convenience is the motivator, not commitment. This friend is part of a house church. When he first told me about it, to be honest, I thought maybe he was one of those people who has problems with authority and structure, kinda like those folks who use their "ministry" to sell only their books, their music, their sermons, as if God only reveals His truth through their microphone. My friend is nothing like that, and knowing more about his background, I can more easily understand the appeal of this form of church to him. And while my first response to his church had a healthy dose of skepticism, there was also a great deal of appeal.

I've been in Grand Rapids for six and a half years, and over that time I've met friends at three different churches, two different singles groups and two different employers. My commitment to these friends has ebbed and flowed as we moved through life stages and other priorities. Something I realized when writing my book is how cyclical my relationships have been. They meet a need and then we move on. I don't want to do that any more.

My friend's church is just a handful of people, of different ages, races and marital statuses. When they gather on Sundays, it isn't just an item on their weekly to do list. It's an opportunity to engage with the other people they've committed to love and do life with. It's an opportunity to engage with God, to learn more about Him as they study together, worship together, eat together, give together, serve together, live together. I've seen my friend ache with regret when he couldn't be with his family of friends on Sunday. It's part of him. Not only do they gather on Sundays, but they meet throughout the week, both for planned, regular events, but also for informal, spontaneous game nights or watching a favorite TV show.

I had the opportunity to experience their Sunday gathering, and I'll tell you, I was intimidated by the intimacy of it! Even though I was welcomed with open arms, I felt a bit like I was intruding on something very private. It's taken me a few weeks to process it, but I think what was so overwhelming to me was the sense that this family of friends is fully vulnerable to know and be known. There were no walls between them. They all knew each other's "stuff." And what was most amazing to me, they were deeply loved despite of it--the commitment of community. And because their group isn't defined by marital status or anything else that changes, they continue to know and be known, to grow and to love. I yearn to live in that sustained kind of acceptance, free from all the perfectionist lies so deeply ingrained in my hard wiring. I have tasted it, but I want more.

The humbling thing is, I realize that I haven't experienced that total love and acceptance because I am a master builder of walls. I love on my terms, on my time, when it's convenient to me. I have lived alone nearly half my life. My relationships are based more on what I need than what I can give. I'd rather give my money than my time. I prefer email over the phone because I can respond on my schedule. I have a beautiful home with a lovely dining room set. But I can't remember the last time I hosted a dinner party or game night. I don't have roommate because I don't need to. I can afford my home on my salary and I like the privacy and independence it affords me. But not any more.

God has given me opportunities to love on His terms in recent months. It's stretched me, and it hurt, but really, it was a good hurt. I was really excited about the growth I was seeing. But then, I was unexpectedly on the receiving end of what I have so often expected of others, and it completely, utterly broke me. I need to change. I have to change. I want to be a full-on follower of Christ. I want to be in community because we reflect God best when we love as He loves. I want to love because He is love.

So...I made a decision to sell my home. Please understand, I love my house. It represents to me a pinnacle of achievement. After so many years buried in debt, my home represents my reward for struggling and saving. My house is my home in the most emotional sense of the word. It's my place in the world. After a lifetime of rootlessness, my house is my home. My house is my sanctuary. It's big and open and comfortable, and...well, mine. But I realize that my house is also a prison. It, not God, dictates what I do, where my money goes, where I live, and ultimately, what I'm willing to do when God leads me to love.

Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal to those of you reading this. I know people who sell their houses every few years and it's never more than a temporary shelter. But for me it's my Isaac. It's a terribly tangible way of giving up what I love without any guarantees. I don't know if He will give me what I truly long for, but this is the step He's asking me to take today, to test the depth of my commitment to Him. So here goes...anyone looking for a new home?

No comments: