Community is hard.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Moving to Anderson was the first time I moved to a new place with out any preexisting community. College came with built in community in my Tower Team Group, sorority, and residence hall. In graduate school there were eleven other people going step by step with me through that experience. When I moved to Baylor I already had some connections from the summer I interned there. With each new home, the complexity and richness of my community has grown deeper.
I have no doubt that as I continue to develop friendships here in SC that my circle will expand. I’m glad to have the chance to have a wide circle. But the more that circle widens the more I realize how difficult community is.
History makes community hard. As I make new friends I’m reminded how much history I have. There is so much to the context of who I am and who my new friends are that neither of us know. There is much more for both of us to learn about the other. For me this means figuring out what significant pieces take the forefront, and what takes the back burner out of ease of conversation. To be honest, I dread the point in conversation where people ask if I have siblings. Answering that question is so complicated and difficult. I do and I don’t. I’m the oldest, middle and only child. That requires a bit of story telling. I have yet to figure out a graceful way to answer that question.
It’s not that I want to hide that part of my story. I don’t at all. It is a part of who I am, how I relate to others and how my mind works. Figuring out the appropriate time to talk about it, much like my birth order, is not always clear. It just is what it is. In Waco, everyone knew because they were all a part of the transition to only child.
Life also makes community hard. The more the circle expands and the more distance between friends grows the harder it gets to maintain those relationships. With each move some relationships stay, and some fall away. I want to be better for my old friends. I want to be intentional about staying in touch, but remembering to call when the time is appropriate is not my stronghold. So time passes. And life passes, and there is so much to get caught up on.
The truth is that life doesn’t just change for me, it changes for them too. The community I left on May 20th, does not still exist. Life did not hit pause awaiting my return for the play button to be pressed. It kept going. My life did the same thing. Our stories split- like McDreamy and Addison split into “Greys Anatomy” and “Private Practice”.
Today I got a wedding invitation in the mail for a friend from my community group in Waco. I opened it and knew that I wouldn’t be able to attend. I immediately thought, “I’ll have to grab coffee with her when I go to Texas to visit so I can hear all about the wedding and see pictures.”
Then it hit me.
She doesn’t live in Texas anymore. She’s in Kansas now. (hehe cue Wizard of Oz references.)
Then I had a bigger realization– I don’t know when I’m going to visit Texas, and I don’t know who will still be there when I do. Many of my favorite students graduate in May. Some of my favorite colleagues are destined to move to a new job really soon and some already have. Sure, when I head back to Texas, I’ll have people to visit and a lot of the friends I miss the most are still there. But that won’t last forever.
As I move to new places, my community does too. Community is dynamic. The circle stretches and grows and takes on new shapes.
And that’s what makes it so hard. The ever-changing nature of community keeps us constantly on our toes. It’s something you can never grow comfortable in.
Maybe that’s just the point.
I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.
I think dynamic community pushes us to do just that. Each new friendship is a chance for us to take the best parts of ourselves from old relationships. It is a chance to allow ourselves to continually be transformed into the man or woman that God intended for us to be in the first place. There is a lot in me that needs to change. As long as I’m on this side of eternity, that will always be true. I think God uses the changes that come with growing community to do that in me. And that is just hard. It’s good. But it’s hard.
— The Through Painted Deserts links in this blog take you to my affiliate site on Amazon. This only means if you choose to purchase the book from there I’ll get about one cent. I’m just required to tell you that.