I’ve been thinking a lot about this word.
It’s a word I hear my Christian friends use a lot. And it makes me wonder – Do I have one? What does it look like when you have one? How do you know when you are in one? How do you find one? What does it actually mean to be in community with people?
Sometimes I think we mistake proximity for community, and I’ve been learning the past few months that there is a difference. And the difference comes down to whether or not we choose to sincerely be there for each other. And serve each other. And love each other. Just being in proximity with people – whether those people are your family or your neighbors or the people we go to church with – doesn’t create community. Community comes because you make the decision to fiercely love the people you are placed in proximity with.
I’ve been witness to the birth of a beautiful community in the most unlikely of places – Facebook. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love, and the 500 of us that were chosen to be on the launch team were placed in a Facebook group together. The book publishing people set up the Facebook groups for logistical purposes. So we’d have a place to ask questions and receive info on what we were being asked to do.
Then, we all received our advance copies of the book in the mail, and started reading Jen’s beautiful words like,
“If Jesus is the heart of the church, people are the lifeblood. There is a reason He created community and told us to practice grace and love and camaraderie and presence. People soften the edges and fill in the gaps. Friends make up some of the best parts of the whole story.”
“People crave what they have always craved: to be known and loved, to belong somewhere. Community is such a basic human need. It helps us weather virtually every storm. If Jesus’ basic marching orders were 1.) to love God and 2.) to love people, then the fruit of that obedience includes being loved by God and loved by people. We give and get here.”
It was like Jen’s words started taking root in everyone’s soul. First, one woman took a risk and asked us to pray for her in an issue she was having in her life. And we prayed in front of our computers and screens all over the world. Then, another woman reached out. And another. And slowly, this Facebook group became a trusted space where we could go to be there for each other. And then people started meeting up in person. And then we had mugs, and t-shirts and fundraisers, and scholarships, and more praying for each other. It was remarkable to watch and experience. By participating and showing up and loving each other, we were in community with each other. Oh, and we launched a book for Jen. 🙂
The whole experience culminated this past weekend with a book launch party at Jen Hatmaker’s farm house near where I live in Austin, TX. I was really looking forward to attending. I wanted to thank Jen in person for her words, I wanted to see the farmhouse that I’d watched being remodeled on TV, I wanted to meet some of the ladies I’d grown to admire through watching them interact in our Facebook group.
But in the end, I didn’t go.
Watching this community online and re-reading Jen’s book recently made me realize something:
I needed to choose to show up and grow community with the people I’ve been placed in proximity with. And on Saturday night, that looked like going to a party my friend was throwing, where I was able to see friends from church who I haven’t had the chance to talk to in weeks (because, summer and new job and kids and, and, and…) and it also looked like the chance to spend time with my husband before he left town on a business trip. And he’s the most important part of any community I’ll ever be a member of.
So, how do you start providing community? I’m not sure what it looks like for you, but for me, it means making space in my week to go to lunch with friends. It means being present for family, and it means starting a bible study group with women I’m friends with. Because I need more nourishment than just a girls’ night out. I need something deeper. So I’m going to provide it and see what happens.
What does community look like for you? Is it something you’re craving? How can you provide it and love people well?