This is what I "preached" at Beresheth last Thursday (the Sloth sermon was from a couple weeks before that)...
This past weekend, I went to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding. I know, that sounds a little sketchy, like I might be “crazed” as the saying goes or obsessive or wanting a death wish, but hear me out on this. First of all, I was invited. And it wasn’t just a courtesy invite. It was a small wedding. So I went. I went to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding and he was glad I was there. I think his new wife was comfortable with me being there and even I was comfortable, happy to watch their union.
It’s a little different, I know. My first major boyfriend promptly got another woman pregnant after he and I broke up and we never spoke again. My last boyfriend kind of wigs me out. But with my ex-boyfriend who invited me to his wedding and gave me a huge hug afterwards, things were different, and I think it all has to do with community.
When I moved to Waco, Texas in January of 2001, I was in complete culture shock. I knew no one in Waco, let alone in Texas, had no family, no friends, just a scholarship to go to school. I moved in with three people I didn’t know and I began a new phase in my life. Does this sound similar to yours? Have you ever started school unsure about your classes, moved into an apartment or dorm unsure about your roommates, moved to a new town unsure about its culture?
Needless to say, I love Waco. Now. I repeat, now. Not then. Then it was full of obnoxious republicans and sexist classmates. Then everyone was a Texas lover and I had to cut through the pride just to get into the doors of the classrooms. Everyone who heard I was from out of state promptly informed me of Texas’ right to succeed from the Union (as if that were an intelligent decision). Doormats and potato chips were carefully crafted in the shape of the state of Texas. But there were other oddities too. Someone invited me to go eat dinner at the place where all the branch dividians died. A basketball player shot and killed his roommate. The water tasted horrible and you weren’t supposed to swim in the river. There were horrible fire ants in Texas that made blisters on my feet and legs. Baylor in all its wealth and glory sat smack dab in the middle of a poverty-stricken ghetto. Then Waco was scary, foreign, peculiar. But now it is beautiful, stable, and I miss it.
And the change in attitude is all because of community.
Because in Waco I found community and it changed my whole perspective on life.
In Waco, I made friends who I know I will remain close to until it’s all I can do to pull myself out of a rocking chair to go to the bathroom let alone get out of a pew to preach. They will be forever with me because of the community we created living together.
Together in community, my friends and I learned what it meant to truly love one another. We saw each other fully, with our faults and our unique blessings. My friends recognized my gifts and quirky personality, but also my downfalls and weaknesses and they loved me anyway. There was no pretension, no judgment. Everyone was always welcome, the door always open and the beer always in the fridge. When I found a cockroach in my bed at 12 am one night, I called my friend Big Phil and announced that I was in the car and on my way over to sleep on his couch. When he was devastated with a broken heart one night, he called me to come take care of him cause he’d had too much to drink. When I was hungry and didn’t know how to cook anything but cereal, my friend Lance would come over and cook me mac ‘n cheese and together we’d eat dinner and talk theology. When I was depressed over men, my roommate Cat and I would go get a pizza and watch Bridget Jones’ Diary, because laughter and grease always help heartache. When I obsessed unnecessarily over an issue, Josie would sit me down and tell me to stop. To stop right there because I was over-reacting. When sorrow was necessary, Julie would let me cry for hours in her bed. When I was in a play, Chris was always there on the front row.
We all provided this for each other. I had a list a mile long of people I could call, even people I didn’t know very well, who I knew would drop everything to help me out if I was ever in danger or in need. They understood community.
Community means sharing meals, talking long hours, goofing off, wrestling with hard issues, supporting each other, sharing jokes, taking each other lightly and taking each other seriously. It means you let your guard down and let someone else in. It means you get new members to your family, even if they aren’t blood related.
Communities are everywhere. We have communities at school, at work, at church, from High School, in our neighborhood. But the important thing to remember is that whoever we choose to embrace into our community deserves our very best. They deserve us: ourselves, our full selves – not the image we want to portray, not what we think they might like in another person, not another acquaintance full of quaint hi’s and how are you’s who don’t listen for an answer.
And we begin to live in union. In America we live in a Union, in a union where the majority is supposed to rule and the minority agrees to continue to live in community regardless. That’s not how we always behave though. And we live going to church, learning about God, talking to our friends and going home to eat with our family. But there’s so much more to church than that. We live 40 hours a week at work or in school interacting with the same people every day, some of whom we don’t even know their name, some of whom we’d just as soon not know at all.
Who is your community? How do you define it? And are you allowing yourself to live fully by choosing to invest in the lives of people around you and choosing to let them into yours?
It’s a risk. I don’t want people to know about my eating disorder, we may say. I don’t want people to know I love Star Wars. I don’t want people to know I like to read classic literature. I don’t want people to know I drink. I don’t want people to know I don’t drink. I don’t want to be back-stabbed again. I don’t want to be lied to again. I don’t want to be overlooked again. I don’t want to hurt again.
It’s a risk.
But it’s a rainbow too, a promise, of a true communion available only through our triune God. True community: three in one.
“May they live in unity,” Jesus prayed. “Just like you and I are one, let them be one.”
Don’t just go in and out of the doors of the church. Don’t just go in and out of the classrooms, the cubicles. Open your eyes and open your heart. Let people love you and love others. Create family out of friends and work hard at healthy relationships and trust and vulnerability. Learn to know when to shut your friends down in love and learn to listen to them too. Encourage one another. Laugh with one another. Challenge one another. Support one another. Take care of one another. Cook organic mac ‘n cheese for one another.
And you may find yourself celebrating the wedding of your life to the lives of those around you.
And that will be a beautiful marriage indeed.