My ideal community? I know exactly what that looks like.
There are probably two or three other like-minded women around me – ladies who love Jesus and know me well and aren’t too excitable or dominant. We are in my craft room drinking tea and working on craft projects.
There’s Ellie Holcomb playing in the background and everyone can be honest without getting offended and share what’s on their heart without judgment. We laugh and cry and encourage and enjoy the day without a care in the world. There’s no conflict or defensiveness or pretense.
The walls are covered in pretty papers of handwritten scripture and paintings that evoke a sense of joy and beauty. There are no messes to clean or distractions to pull us away and we leave feeling rested and rejuvenated.
Let me be clear, this has never actually existed all at once – but I know it would be lovely. Because I desire like-minded friendship without tension or conflict. And I love to create and be in creative spaces with lots of light and drink tea at any time of the day. It sounds dreamy.
But in reality, many of my dear friends live in different cities, states, even continents! We have different opinions and backgrounds. We don’t always see eye to eye. Many have little children that keep them busy at home. And most are not nearly as into crafts as I am!
So should I be disappointed that my reality does not align with my ideal?
What if that deep-rooted “dream” community is preventing me from really diving in and enjoying the community that is readily available to me today?
What if this wish-dream we carry is so subconscious that we don’t realize we are hesitant to engage and champion the people around us who God has given us to live in harmony with?
I’ve been reading through Acts in my quiet time, and my Bible study group is going through James. As I read passages like Acts 2 describing the early church, or James 2 calling us to a life without partiality – I can’t help but think that my “wish dream” of community sometimes gets in the way of fully engaging and rejoicing in my reality of fellowship.
I don’t know about you, but my reality is messy. There have been hurts and conflicts to work through in friendship. There are tensions of things unsaid at times. There are miscommunications and time differences and distance that can prevent us from being as close as we’d like to be. And even those right here in my city are often pulled in other directions – because such is life! This is our reality.
The early church had over 3,000 members – and yet, ‘they had all things in common’ and they were ‘devoted to the fellowship’ and they spent time together ‘breaking bread in their homes’ (see Acts 2). I can pretty much guarantee that in all three thousand members, there were some personality differences or mentalities that didn’t exactly line up.
Yet, even with those differences in their humanity, Jesus filled the gap. They had a devotion to Scripture and the teaching of the apostles. Devotion literally means obstinate persistence. Nothing could pull them away from their commitment to being in the Word and being together.
‘The fellowship’ reminds us that this was One Fellowship of unity – between one another with Christ in between. The body had many parts and all played unique roles, but they did not let their ‘ideal community’ prevent them from living life with the reality of the body right in front of them.
James writes a similar command to believers, that we should not be partial because of how someone dresses or how much money they have or what they can offer us (see James 2). And yet, aren’t we so often drawn to those people who seem lovely? We have a hard time offering the same love and genuine interest to those who appear might need more love, more patience and more work.
Friends, I’m guilty of this all the time. But if we continue to allow our “wish-dream” of community that we’ve been searching for to hinder us from diving into real life relationships, we may spend the majority of our lives waiting for the perfect fellowship and missing out on growing in harmony with interesting, unique, God-created humans to our right and left. Don’t miss out on the beautiful opportunity (and even challenges) of community because you’re holding out for the perfect, dreamy, but potentially unrealistic family of Christ that you’ve yet to meet.
What if instead, we let go of those hindrances and embraced who God has put beside us today? What if we picked up the phone and called that person who has been on our mind that we see potential with – but have been insecure or unwilling to invite them into our lives? What if you text your neighbor for coffee, or speak to your coworker who seems nice but you’ve never had an actual conversation with? What if we stop focusing on our differences and start inviting others into a common bond of grace and community?
Because ultimately, Christ is our unity. When we devote our hearts to loving Him with all that we are, there is a common bond that is stronger than any made-up version of friendship we may or may never find. He covers our differences with grace and allows us to walk in a common goal, even if we have different ways of getting to the finish line. God’s power is made evident through our differences when He serves as our bond of unity!
May we be women who seek love and peace with those who look different, with those we never expected, and with those who require the patience and grace that only comes from Christ. This is the beauty of the Church and the bond of the Holy Spirit in our everyday reality.