This post is a bit of a follow up to one from a couple of weeks ago, Community for introverts, it might help to read that first.
We all need to find a place called home.
Dorothy wanted to go there, football fans know the power of home. I grew up in a home and now I’m not sure if it is still my home.
All sorts of things can be said about home, whether it is a place, or a group of people, or a state of mind.
All sorts of things can be done in an attempt to get home. Maybe it is the goal that overrides all others, maybe it is the comfort, the solace, the refuge that quietens our soul in times of need.
Maybe it is the sound of familiar voices, the feel of well worn furniture, the love from those you love.
But what if those things are absent? When you start again and the raw materials before you are not enough. When the pieces of the puzzle refuse to fit together.
I want to be home, but I don’t know where that is. Too often life is just good natured fun. We roll with the good times and do our utmost to avoid the bad ones. When sadness hits we don’t have the language, the posture, the temperament to handle the dislocation it causes. I haven’t shared enough joy to really comprehend the depth of sadness I should experience. I haven’t given enough of myself away to know the cost when someone takes that away.
Sometimes we mistake social activity for building community.
Because at first glance they can appear the same, but if we dig a little deeper social activity is based on the present, but community is prepared to sacrifice gratification in the present to build something better for the future. Community will ask the hard questions and not tolerate evasion, it will make space for silence and not be worried if the fun is sometimes suspended.
Social activity works on what is convenient, community depends on effort.
The challenge is how we build an authentic, deep, community in an environment where the immediate too often takes precedence. Because when depth is forthcoming it is often only because the future looks more constrained than before and depth suddenly becomes more urgent.
Community is the gradual unravelling of the layers that we shroud our innermost being with. It’s the place where we find the courage to bare our souls. It’s the people with whom we can share the things that hurt more than the words we muster can convey. It’s the love that doesn’t reject but a love that also corrects. We are in community when the self satisfaction of opening oneself up is not met with warm applause but with the gentle reminder that in all likelihood all that has been exposed is another layer of false presumptions and facades to deflect attention from what’s going on inside.
A place like this doesn’t happen by chance. Every now and then there will be a moment of transparency and deep surrender, maybe prompted by the knowledge that God is near, or maybe by the emotional flux we are caught in. And we throw open the flood gates and let others into our lives. But then the morning comes and we recover our composure and barricade the defences once again. We acknowledge the value of emotional openness but find ways of drifting away from the personal in case we might display our vulnerability in the cold light of day.
There are always reasons and ways to shift from the personal to the abstract, and we find them too easily. Instead of being open and vulnerable we talk about the need to be open and vulnerable. We have the lofty intentions but it somehow remains something we should do rather than a mode of living our lives.
When I write I try to strip away the theory and the ideas, and force myself not to just write in the abstract. Sometimes it doesn’t make it onto the blog. Sometimes my friends counsel me against publishing it. But more often than not it does. I have this pang of uncertainty when I publish something that exposes a little bit of my heart, a fraction of the pain I feel, an ounce of the hope that lingers above all else. I fear what others will think when they read my words.
This all links into the post a few weeks back on community for introverts, it is easier for me to broadcast emotions into the ether than sit down and talk. It is preferable, from a convenience point of view, to have fun times that don’t ask too much of me. It is hard to hang around through the interminable mingling of after church conversations, and make the effort to deepen friendships beyond what is fun.
But it is essential. Not the after church mingling, that truly is torturous. The sacrifice of convenience for community, the perils of openness to achieve depth, the hard graft of honesty so people really know who we are. The path back home.