Wednesday, September 7, 2011
A Fishbowl Life
The theme of 75% of my conversations this week have been about "community". No, not the t.v. show. Although, I do feel as if my life here, in this community, could probably be made into an interesting reality-show-slash-musical (I threw in the musical because it's my lifelong dream to be in a musical. All that singing and dancing just makes me happy. Unless we're talking about Sweeny Todd. Then it makes me really, really sad).
I (definitely) digress.
Questions a few of us have been throwing around...What is a community, in the real sense of the word? Who's included in that community? How does a loving community work? What are the boundaries? Are there boundaries? Who gets included? Who does the including? When is being exclusive okay? Is it ever okay? How do you build deep, meaningful friendships without coming across as exclusive?
In a normal setting (referring to my life back in America), I had several different friend groups. Sometimes they mingled together but mostly they were separate. Church friends, work friends, old students, current students, families, etc. As long as we made time for each other at some point, everyone was pretty much happy. No one really noted who, when, what, where, how long.
I don't live in a normal setting now. I live in a fishbowl.
I am surrounded by the same people all the time in work, play, church, and any other extra-curricular activity. And it has some major consequences, good and not-as-good. It has the potential and usual outcome of great friendships, automatic accountability, help (physical, spiritual, social) when needed, and a general sense of being-taken-care-of-and-cared-about. But, just like any house with glass walls, it leaves room for little privacy and can cause a sense of community over-awareness. When the people in your community know where you go, what you do and who you spend your time with all day, every day, life can get very complicated. Spending a lot of time with one group makes it very apparent of who you're not spending time with. It becomes noticeable when you don't show up or who you show up with. It can be noted who you talk to when you're in a group or who you don't talk to, who you take time to get to know and who you don't, who you have over to your house and who you don't.
There are about 150 people within my immediate community. Probably half of that amount are people that I eat, play, worship, travel, and work with during a normal week. Within that crowd, I have been blessed to find a small accountability group. People that I have invested a lot of time, honest communication, and hard work into. They call me out when I'm wrong, discuss deep theological questions, let me cry even when it's silly, encourage me, take care of me, try to understand me. We build each other up, sharpen each other...I have learned so much from these people. It's intentional. It's deep. It's precious to me.
We are, in this small group of mine, trying to figure out how to do life together in the in the right way within the bigger group. Balance, love, thoughtfulness, inclusion, while still maintaining the closeness and accountability of the group within the group.Tricky, it seems. Super tricky.
Is it possible to have a group within a group without being a "click", exclusive, hurtful?
I hope so. There are so many friendships within the larger group that I want to continue to pursue, to strengthen, to enjoy, to learn from. But I need my smaller group too. I need that accountability and familiarity, that spiritual bond, that love and acceptance even when the truth is known.
But mostly I want to do what's right, what's edifying for the body, what's commanded of me: to love my neighbor as myself.
I'm hoping after this week, to have a better understanding of what that looks like.