The other night I was sitting next to my husband at church. He had just arrived back in town from a work trip to D.C. and we were both weary and eager to spend time together. Yet, our church had a meeting on this particular week night so we were there sitting quietly trying our best to listen to our pastor share. I will be honest, this was quite the struggle for me. I was sleepy, and having a hard time focusing on the words coming out of his mouth.
However, there was one moment during the teaching time that these words were said, "We must respect one another enough to listen, and to listen long. We must listen long to look for the areas of unbelief." I quickly whipped out my notepad and jotted these words down. They struck me to the core.
Often we desire quick community, or at least I often find myself desiring this. The type of community that instantly hits it off, has everything in common, and is totally comfortable opening up and sharing deeply with one another. I don't think it is wrong to desire this, no I really think we should all desire this. However, it is unrealistic to expect this to happen within days, weeks, months or even the first year of a relationship. Listening long takes a long time. It may take 100 conversations over many different meals and events before we really break through to that level we consider to be true community.
Shauna Niequist is one of my favorite authors, and she recently spoke at a conference and was asked about pursuing community. She began to talk about the topic and address the question and one thing that she said was, "you have to log the hours...". How true this is. Community takes time, and SO MUCH of it. I have seen this to be true within our own church community here where we live. We have been a part of this body of believers for almost 2 years yet still find ourselves longing for a deeper community than we currently have. I often find myself discontent and frustrated that I am not surrounded by deep soul sister that understand everything about me without me even having to explain anything...I often feel as if I am alone and without "my people".
But, in light of these two talks, one by our pastor and the Q&A with Shauna, I am able to see two things.
One. Community takes effort. It doesn't happen by chance, and it is not something we should wait around for. We must be the ones willing to log the hours and listen long, we must initiate it rather than crying behind closed doors hoping someone else will reach out to you. The pursuit of community is brave, and willing to be rejected, but most of all it is patient.
Two. Community takes time. Listen long. Log the hours. Long and hours are words that imply more than just a few minutes, and more than just once every now and then. Time, community truly takes time. It is not a quick fix kind of thing that we get simply because we want it. Similar to family, community takes years to truly develop, and it messy and hard to navigate, and beautiful when you are accepted exactly as you are.
I am blessed with a loving church that is committed to community. We are not there yet, but every member is willing to log the hours and try to listen long. It is a beautiful thing to be a part of a community that is stumbling along somewhat clumsily at times towards a goal that takes so much time and effort. I am reminded that I am not exempt from these things yet should make it my goal to seek others out and to labor to develop truly genuine relationships with them. Laboring long, and logging the hours.
What are your thoughts on Community?