On Saturday, I had the privilege to be a guest speaker to college seniors in their upcoming transition from university to "real world." There was a Q&A time and many had thoughtful questions. One young man asked those of us on the panel if "we thought living in community was essential/necessary post graduation? And if so, why?"
My answer: Yes I do, and here's why.
1. Living in Community taught me about Togetherness (& prepared me for my own family)
In college, I lived within community housing. For two years, I lived with nine other girls and the following year I lived with five other girls. Now, there's one thing about living with other females that can make your head spin (as well as me being the contributor to the head spinning business). There were established routines, structures, & goals implemented, in order for us to commune without killing one another. There were times when I was stubborn & prideful and was plain sick of giving. I was sick of having to live with so many people and just wanted to share a room by myself.
Yet, it was within community that taught me to love when I didn't feel like it. To extend grace, when I didn't think someone deserved it. To receive gifts, that I didn't necessarily deem worthy, but accept them for love of other. These carried over into marriage, relationships with co-workers/small group/friends, & parenting.
When we choose to live within community, being present both physically & mentally (because we can just as easily be within community and isolate ourselves by making others fit within our parameters), we learn a sense of togetherness. We see what it meant for Jesus to go to a quiet place early in the morning to find solitude (not isolation), in order to be fully present when he was within community (togetherness).
2. Community has taught me the Importance of Receiving (& not always being gracious about it)
I think it's hard to truly receive a gift with a joyful heart. Some people have the ability to receive with such grace and they teach me how to do the same.
In our culture, hospitality has often been equated with the "host/hostess," which the latin deriative of the word 'hospes' of 'hospitality' is relating to the "host." Yet, maybe we need to redeem this word by going to the Greek deriative, which is "xenos" meaning stranger. Hospitality under the "xenos" meant it was about the guest. It was about lifting up the guest & receiving them without condition.
Community teaches us to receive a gift, or a guest without condition. I liken this to Ben offering to make breakfast on a Saturday morning. I have declined his offer, not because I wanted to make the food, but because I didn't want to receive his gift. I like the way I make eggs better than the way he makes eggs. Sounds meaningless, right? It is! But I think it's in these minute moments where we can see the matters of our heart on the big screen of life. When we don't make room for people in the small ways, how can we ever expect to make room for others in the bigger pictures?
3. Community is a Beautiful Messy
When children create some of their very first masterpieces they often look like messy blobs. Well, that is to the untrained eye, but to the parent, teacher or beloved family member, they see beyond the "mess" into the beautiful.
My little Tayers created her first masterpiece in the kitchen, Chocolate Cookie Cake. We served them at dinner, much to two little girl's delight. Now, I knew what went into these little morsels and was a bit reluctant to eat them. However, when my little girl with her big chocolate brown eyes asks, "Mama, do YOU want a chocolate cookie cake?," what is a mama to do? I saw the mess & even the yuck factor. But, what I saw more was her beautiful heart inviting me to partake in the messiness of love. Would the gluten possibly affect me? Would my tastebuds go into shock? Possibly.
I'm certain that the more we allow ourselves to delve into the messiness of community is when we can embrace the full beauty of this life-giving hospitality. Plus, wouldn't life simply be boring if we managed to keep our proverbial white shirts bleach white, while wearing them alone?