Monday, July 23, 2007

two households, both alike in dignity...

A friend of mine from college has been posting recently on what pursuing a PhD in Theology looks like. I appropriated a quote of his, which seemed to speak directly to pursuing community. All I had to do was substitute one word:

It’s hard on the soul to do [COMMUNITY], because one day I looked up and realized that I had moved. I realized that my mind and soul had shifted into a place that I could never have expected; it wasn’t a bad place, but a different place, and with different neighbors and different friends standing nearby.

I've been talking about community in some way, shape or form for at least 10 years now. It started with studying community development in college, then communication in post grad, and eventually the conversation emerged in my Church life (where it should have originated, no?). But making a choice to pursue it, to practice it, to go prospecting through it... that has been a wholly other endeavor.

I sort of stumbled into community. Not the form of stumbling caused by tripping over something, but more the kind caused by a gentle shove (the prodding of an unseen hand). Or maybe it was more calculated than that. We'll move your best friend here... your housing here... see that clearing? you only have one move left to make. So there I was, asking two girls I barely spent any time with if they would by any chance be interested in moving in together. And there they were, in the midst of making housing decisions themselves.

This isn't the way I would have chosen to be in community. I was investing my life in a bunch of nomads. My roommates, the people on our couch, the friends who graced our doorframe, they weren't here to stay. Their hearts were drawn to other nations. I knew this going in, but I don't think I was prepared.

The katamari kept growing. One day the people on our couch were a household of their own. And there were other households, too. And I'm not sure any of us knew how we got there. But there we were. It was inspiring and encouraging and exciting, and it was sticky, messy and strange. There were days when I didn't want to be anywhere else, and there were days when I wanted to be anywhere but with them. We asked questions. We admitted we didn't have all of the answers. We changed our minds and we challenged our hearts.

This picture is a Bible verse to me. The Spirit speaks through it. It flashed across my computer screen this morning, accompanied by an amplified context. COMMUNITY. Community is not a happy little house where everyone shares and gardens and sings kumbaya, though those things have happened (except maybe the kumbaya part... but I wouldn't put it past us!).

Community is struggle. Community is clumsy. Community is shit, sometimes.

There have been others in this journey with us (thank God, or it would have ended long ago), but these four girls are the ones who have taught me community. This picture represents a covenant. A covenant I have wanted to run from more than once. A covenant that we are going to figure out how to "do life" together come hell or high water... or really bad days... or selfishness... or relationships... or the passing of time.

Community has been about knocking people off of their pedestals, while having mine yanked out from beneath me. It has also been about learning to esteem one another higher than ourselves. It has been about learning to love people even when you hate them, learning to lean on people when you would rather suck it up and do it yourself, learning to let others be who they are while they help you become who you could be. Community isn't about changing people, but people do change... and you will change too.

There are enough personalities (and estrogen) in this community to make anyone's head spin. I have a sister who is dauntlessly independent, and she has been the easiest for me to attach to. I have a sister who hungers for attachment, and I have learned vulnerability from her. I have a sister who is as stubborn as I am, and we've helped to rub some edges off of each other. And I have a sister who is filled with awe and wonder, and helps to keep me enthusiastic.

I've had to give hugs when I didn't feel like touching anyone. I've had to forgive when I wanted to stew. I've had to process feelings and communicate them and learn from them. I've prayed with my sisters. I've cried. I've worshipped. I've gotten really pissed off.

Community is about learning to let people in to your life, and about learning to let people go.

I've learned to let people go my whole life. The letting people in has been a catechism.

I don't have to let any of these ladies go just yet, but it is inevitable. And I knew it was coming. Quite honestly, there were times when I didn't think I would last this long. I sure didn't know I would learn this much.

Thank you, my Sistren (and the brothers and families that have walked with us), for sitting in the grass with me. Thank you for making this work. Thank you for pushing me, and asking questions and not allowing me to think I'm always right. Thank you that this picture doesn't represent the culmination of the struggle, but rather the commencement of true exertion (with plenty of bumps in the road). I love you for who you are making me. I love you for where your lives are headed. I love you for the love of God you allow to pour through you. Namaste.

Who did I imagine I was, that things as they are, reality as God gave it, was not enough for me?
~ Franz Wright


Kimberly said...

hehe - I'm going to make an observation on my own post. Whitney... Staci... Kathy... apparently we have a *no blondes allowed* policy. geesh, we're such snobs!

Anonymous said...

after having watched you sisters from over the shoulders of your circle for quite a while, i can see - and say - that yours is a special sisterhood. i say that, in fact, with great joy. i say it because i know it to be true.

from the influence you exert on your environment - to the influence you exert on one another, it is clear that the Spirit is the influential force. not individual principles - but spiritual ones are working here. this is more than comforting and refreshing. it is golden.

from the outside, looking in, i have seen silence, laughter, anger, joy, compassion, dispassion, rage and delight. and perhaps what this says about each of you is that, above all else, what you have is REAL.

the photograph is special to me for so many reasons - all of which i hold close to my heart. i do not know many things - but i know this one thing very well:

you sisters sit around a fire that was lit from The Fire. you have keys to the Kingdom in your pockets. and i am grateful for your willingness to just simply be who you are. what a blessing.

it occurs to me that someone had to get up and make the photograph above happen. somebody had to document this moment. and, for my money, there is no better bohemian (barefooted or otherwise) in all the universes than the one who took this picture. like her car, and the stickers that adorn it, her blog is a place of peace - hung with imagery of a moving river where the Truth is always reflected. thank you for this day, sisters. thank you for being who you are - each of you. Our Father has mastery of all that is - and He chose to unite you.

Imagine the implications!

Daughters of Job, you are the lights in the homes of the city on the high hill. That glow, emanating from the source - through you - cannot be hidden!


Angela said...

hey, i like what you're saying here.
(i found you from taking off and landing)

Angelika said...

it's posts like that that cause tears running down my face (thank goodness nobody but me is in the office today) and makes me want to pack up my stuff right away and come back ...

it's posts like that that make me miss y'all ...

it's posts like that show me how important community is ... how much i need it ...

Ramón said...

I'm glad the living "conversation" on community continues in Chicago, in the Rock, and here in the PDX, but I wish I could journey with you sistren a little more closely geographically.