The Bad Thing About Living in Community

So, I don’t really think that belonging to a community of believers is bad. However, the title got you to click the link so let’s keep going and I’ll explain my meaning behind the title. 

When true Christian community happens, there are bonds that form between people that last long after job transfers, moves, and life changes. They are bonds that grow deeper than friendship. They are the bonds of Christian love. 

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From about the middle of August until around the middle of November I go through a period of something that I am going to name “Not Greatness.” The Not Greatness doesn’t affect me everyday…I’ve been there, done that, and learned a lot along the way. However, every year since leaving Winston-Salem, I go through the Not Greatness. It usually sneaks up on me out of nowhere. There I’ll be, minding my own business, going about my day, and BAM! Suddenly I’m crying, longing for something I left behind.

What is it the I am longing for?  What is it that the Not Greatness has me bawling my eyes out over?

It is community. Specifically, the community I left behind in Winston Salem.

Why this time of year? I have some guesses but I don’t know exactly. The Fall made me fall in love with Winston Salem, and Winston Salem made me fall in love with the Fall. I had never seen leaves turn the colors they do until I moved there. The golds, reds, and oranges surrounded me as I walked my neighborhood. I learned to appreciate the full cycle of life and God’s creation in a different way. It is a time of the Dixie Classic Fair, walks on brisk days, fire pits and smores, festivals, trick or treating, and hot chocolate. 

But if it was just these things and events I don’t think I would have such a longing. I don’t think the Not Greatness would even rear it’s head. And I don’t think that two years ago I would have walked through deep depression. No, it’s not the things and events.  It’s the people that were with me when I was doing these things and going to these events that made them so special. The people  are what I long for and miss. They are the reason behind the Not Greatness. 

Please don’t hear me say I don’t love where I am or that I want to be somewhere else.  I love where I am. There is no where else I’d rather be. I’m trying to make new traditions and find new events and things to invite others into that will make them just as special as the things and events I left behind. I am loving the community that is developing around me. It’s beautiful and lovely and brings great joy. But there are times when I long, desperately so, for those friendships I left behind that go deeper than friendships. They are relationships rooted in Christian love and community. 

So why is it that I still miss this community so much? What is it that made it (and continues to do so) special? It’s the love that exists between us. It’s the love that most of us hear preached about at weddings, but really was intended for the Church. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes to the church in Corinth that “[l]ove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

When the Church remembers that is to be like Christ, who IS LOVE (which means he is all the things in the list Paul gives us) then what a better Church we would be. How amazing it would be to have a body of believers who didn’t insist on their own way or hold grudges or let sin slide under the rug. How incredible to have that body be patient and kind to one another, never letting arrogance or conceit or envy put them at odds with one another.

And this is how my community in Winston-Salem functioned. It did not accomplish this perfectly, but this description of love was its foundation. Everything was based on this. It was how we were able to forgive one another for offenses, celebrate each others successes, mourn losses, serve selflessly, give freely, and take correction. It was a community that pushed me, tried me, made me uncomfortable with my sin…and drew me closer to Christ.

So what’s the “bad thing” about true Christian community ? It is having to walk away from it. I guess the Not Greatness isn’t so bad either. It reminds me of people I love. It reminds me to pray for them, call them, text them.  The great thing about this community is that no matter where I am in the world, it will always be there. A phone call, a text message, a FaceTime call away. They are forever a part of our lives, no matter how many miles separate us. This is what true community should be, right? Our lives should be so interwoven that when one of the threads breaks away, it 1) hurts like crazy and 2) is not severed completely from the others.

As I think about where I am now, I look forward to the new relationships and community that are developing that will be closer than friendship because of in Whom it is rooted. I am excited for the 1 Corinthians kind of love to permeate who we are as a church and how we interact with one another.

So I give myself permission each Fall to feel the deepness of the Not Greatness, but I don’t give my permission to stay there. Instead, I mourn what was and I look forward to what will be.

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The Downward Spiral

It happened slowly…the downward spiral that is. It came one curve at a time. One small twist here, another there. And before I knew it, I was on a steep decent into depression.

I haven’t talked about it a whole lot. If you read my previous post, you understand why. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. I felt like a failure. But that was then, and this is now.

So why am I talking about it? Maybe it’s because I have talked to friends and family who have felt the same shame. Maybe it’s because I don’t like stigmas. Maybe it’s because “depression” shouldn’t be something people have to hide. I don’t want to live my life putting on a “good face” for people. I don’t want to walk around with my head hung low because of what others think. I don’t want anyone else to either. But maybe the most important reason is because of what I have learned, or remembered, about God. So I am talking about it. I’m letting you into what has been a very dark period in my life in hopes that those friends and family I mentioned don’t feel alone or hopeless or like they can’t be real with people or God.

The first curve came over a year and half ago when my grandfather passed away suddenly. I wrote about it all here if you are interested. The post in general is about how when you live away from tragedy, you process it differently. It wasn’t until we moved home last summer that I was able to come to terms with him not answering the door at his house, never giving me another almost too strong hug, taking the kids to see his chickens, and telling me he loves me. Almost a year had passed before this happened. I had pushed it to the back of my mind, not really dealing with it.

The next twist in my life came with the decision to move back to Italy. It was a long and difficult decision. Understand that the decision to follow Jesus wherever he would lead was not the difficult part. It was the leaving that would be difficult. You can read a little about that process here.

While in Winston-Salem I never processed the leaving. I chose to ignore, going so far as to tell my friends that I didn’t want to talk about it all summer. I wanted to have a normal summer without there being an overshadowing sadness of last moments. I did a pretty good job at ignoring it all, too, which led to a pretty steep drop in the spiral. Before I knew it the summer was gone and I was standing in an empty house with a U-Haul out front having just said goodbye to friends who had become my family during the course of four years.

I pushed all those emotions that began to surface back down. They wouldn’t get the best of me. I would not let them “win”. The spiral continued.