Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Community

Tonight a dozen memories flood my mind and almost causes my heart to catch in my throat.  

It’s the summer before my senior year in high school and Tammi, Christie, Anne, Chris, Steven and I lie down on a blanket out on the hot concrete at the end of Tammi’s street.  We watched for shooting stars. We were quiet and then we laughed and talked and couldn’t even possibly imagine where we would be some 20 years later.  We had done life together since we were little.  No one could ever replace these friends.

It’s the end of my junior year in college.  Once again I sit at the end of a runway of an abandoned airport with 10 of my closest girlfriends.  It’s late at night and of course we were trying to make dirt cake and no one had brought a spoon, but alas! I had a flashlight to stir it with.  We laughed and cried and we celebrated our friend Lisa who was graduating and because she had a summer birthday, she never got celebrated, so we made it a Lisa night.  Someone still has a recording of that night.  No one could ever replace these friends.

It’s my second year on staff at UT.  Darren, Haley, Brad and I decided we wanted to go caving.  Haley lost her shoe in the mud and reached down to pull it out, only to discover it was someone else’s shoe.  It’s like an episode of Criminal Minds.  Brad and D had to shove us up out of the cave.  For any girl, you know what that means and how awkward that was for all involved.  Act cool.  Act like it’s normal for Brad Crawford to be shoving your arse up through a grate. NBD. We were covered in mud and we laughed and laughed.  No one could replace these friends.

I have 1000 memories of people, sacred moments, many more serious than the ones I wrote about.  It’s the ones I wrote about that capture a taste of adventure and Life.  So many other memories would capture the things we wouldn’t choose to share; the things that make caving, watching shooting stars and sitting at the end of an abandoned runway with people more RICH.

My friend Brad (not the one who shoved our rears up a grate) shared his definition of community with me tonight.  “Community - Family. Like minded friends sharing a goal. Living and thriving in the good and growing through the bad.”  Then he asked me a question that made me stop in my tracks.  “But if you remove the goal, what are you?”   

I have found myself wrestling with this question over and over and over the past few months.  Community. Family.  Sharing a goal.  Maybe that’s too complex or you think I’m overthinking it.  But when you get to the stage of life that I’m in, I want my relationships/community to count.  To have weight.  To give life and to receive life. To be on mission together. These days the people I want to spend time with and be with are in a really different season than I am. Mostly families, but it’s worth pursuing because these are MY PEOPLE.  So if getting time with Allison means sitting with her for hours because her husband’s having surgery, then by golly, I’m sitting with Al.  I didn't want to leave today because time with she and my other friend Jen filled my soul.  We had conversation that mattered and their words had weight. We have community and it has not come easy.  If it means driving to Chattanooga or to Charlotte, then that needs to happen. The focus of friendship is beginning to narrow in my life and it is a relief, because no one can replace these friends.

Why is community (using the definition B gave me) important?  Even before Adam and Eve ate the fruit, it says in Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone.  We need one another and there is nothing BAD about that desire.  Nothing.  

As a counselor, one of the first questions I know to ask someone who is struggling is, “Do you have support? Community?”  We know that being and staying healthy requires other people.  The irony here is that sometimes you don’t know who God wants to give you to journey with. Do they have to look a certain way? Be the coolest ones in the room?  Do they have something that I want?  Do they make me feel better about myself?  Do I get my needs met?  

Friendship that matters isn’t built on endless social gatherings, although that is a blast and needed.  Friendship and community that matters means living and thriving in the good and growing in the bad.  And I would add, committing to growing through the bad.  Community sounds like such a beautiful word and concept until crap hits the fan and I want to run.  This past year God in his severe mercy has walked me through a season of being so exposed in my weakness and neediness and I couldn’t even pretend as I had in the past.  And in his kindness he has taught me about community through some key people.  I hope they are in my life for years to come.  It’s been worth every hard and painful moment, and I know it is only the beginning. No one can replace these friends.