No person was meant to live their life alone, separated from the joy of sharing tears, frustrations, and celebration with another person. A couple of years ago, a distant family member of mine died alone in his apartment during the Christmas season. When everyone at his workplace went back to work after the new year and noticed he wasn’t back for a couple of days, they sent someone to check on him. Why did it take about two weeks for anyone to notice he was gone? How come he didn’t spend the season with loved ones? Because he chose to live a life of anonymity, devoid of human connection with others. And as was the case in his scenario, it was that loneliness that ended up taking his life.
Community is such an important part of living because it causes us to grow, learn, and strengthen our convictions and views of the world. Because of that, living in community is also one of the hardest things we can do. We allow others into our thoughts, our deepest desires, our hidden demons, and our weaknesses, and we ask them to love us anyway. There’s a reason why so many people walk out of marriages instead of fix the broken parts of them. In those moments of deepest hurt, it feels a lot easier to walk away and take the bruise rather than allow the hurt to change our relationship for the better.
In this area, I have two greatest heroes. Jesus Christ knew the importance of community. He poured His life daily into twelve men who would be carrying on His message after He was killed. He worked faithfully for three and a half years to mentor and strengthen them for the tests they would endure after He would leave them. Even when they asked the stupid questions, let their short tempers loose, and betrayed Him, He continued pouring into them. He spent time praying with them, spent the last meal of His life eating with them, and wandered three and a half years from town to town with them for His family. It is this kind of love and sense of community I strive to bring about in my own life. I want to pour into those around me and forgive when I’ve been betrayed. And I want those around me to rebuke in love when I need it (like Jesus did to Peter).
My other hero is my father, Tom Allen. I guarantee you wouldn’t be able to come up with a scenario this man hasn’t dealt with in life, but you would never know that. Because of his humility and his strong sense of determination, he forges on in life and spends his time on the things that will only matter for eternity. You will find him at the homeless shelter once or twice a week, at the VA center hanging out with Veteran’s dealing with addictions, at his church, and being poured into by those who have a little more life experience. And he gets paid for none of this. He is a man with a deep conviction of what’s really important, and what’s really important is sharing life with others. Sharing meals with homeless men he meets, sharing wisdom with young veterans, and sharing his struggles with a mentor. Because of this, I’ve seen him grow tremendously and I’m grateful for it, because he shares his life with me and Bryan, too.
Eventually, Bryan and I would love to live in community with other couples or other families. We have tasted community and though it was been very hard for us, we have fallen in love with it. In our lives right now, we have a group at church we share our lives with. We also are very close with his parents, who pour into our lives. In the past, we have spent short periods of time living with his parents and those times have proven to be incredibly hard, but critical for growing our marriage. They are the ones who ask us the tough questions and help us get through the tough answers. We also have a small group of friends (about 8 of us) who share their lives with us. Some of us are young married, some are single, some are in college, some are engaged, but all of us know the importance of leaning on each other. I know that when Bryan and I are having troubles, I can go to my best girl friends and they will give me what I need to hear, whether I really want to hear it or not.
The challenge of this post is to find your community. Find a group of friends, a couple in your family, or even just one individual if that’s all you can find for now and do life with them. If you go to church, join a small group. If you have a hobby, join a club. If you have children, join a mom’s group. Do something. I can guarantee that you won’t grow by sitting on your couch and hoping for change. You must get out there and find it. So, go find it.