Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Community is something we Christians like to talk a lot about. "Doing life together". Casseroles, jello molds and comfort food recall the warmth of church potlucks and family gatherings - the community more satisfying than the meal. We have "community groups" and "fellowship halls". All for good reason - Our trinitarian God is the embodiment of community and in the very beginning the first thing he declared "not good" was for we humans to be alone.
And yet, in my own life, community is something I have been lacking and need.
While wandering through my crisis of faith and legalism in my mid-20s I seriously considered converting to Orthodox Judaism. The single biggest reason for this was because of the strong community ties I saw among the orthodox Jews I had met or whose lives I'd witnessed. The strength and centrality of family. The "Jewish Geography" game, exploring the degrees of separation between community members is not six degrees as in my contemporary Protestant American culture, but usually just one or two. When you live in walking distance to schul there are many neighbors who are part of your faith community just doors away. If there is an illness or financial emergency in the family they know, and charity given in such a way as to help you out and retain your dignity at the same time. When a family member dies you have to have a minyan (10 people) at your house to sit shiva and pray the mourner's kaddish, mourning together is so important it's a requirement of Orthodox Jewish living. Sabbath is set aside for building community - from relationships between spouses, to families and it's a mitzvah to host guests for Sabbath.
Another faith I considered converting to was Mormonism, and for the same reasons. With singles wards, multiple weekly activities with people who share your faith and again, the centrality of family, to an outsider the LDS wards seemed a bastion of the community I crave. Whole days of the week are dedicated to family time, and if you are a grown single it's dedicated to building community with other singles who share your faith. Across the Mormon world Family Home Evening is a time for building relationships.
I want community like that!
I want older women to be "meddlesome" in my life like the Shadchan (a Jewish matchmaker) or a Mormon Sister. I want uninvited guests to show up at my door to share a meal and good conversation out of the blue. I want a neighbor I could borrow a cup of sugar from. I want people, in addition to my own family, that know me well, are on the look out for a suitable lifelong match for me, who are there to help when abdominal pain wakes me from sleep and leaves me in tears afraid I'm dying, who help to hold me accountable in discipleship. I crave that community so much that I was nearly willing to leave the doctrine and faith I hold at the core of my being in order to get it.
I know, having read memoirs of women of various faiths, that the grass is not always greener on the other side. I know that there are dark places in Orthodox and Mormon communities, there are abuses, and alienation, and there are single women, like me, who still crave family. I know that, even worse, their faiths often tell them they are single because they aren't "good enough" for a spouse.
I love Jesus. I love my faith. I love the Word. I love the idea of community that I see so often as an outsider in other faiths and that I see so clearly portrayed in my own scripture.
I do not love that I had to take an ambulance to the emergency room on that cold February night because I had no one else I could call for help. I do not love that I have no home away from home as a single woman living hours from her family. I do not love that I feel I cannot initiate these relationships in many ways because I'm a younger, single woman. I do not love that I feel the many evenings spent alone especially keenly because God made me an extrovert who craves contact and discussion with other people. I do not love the loneliness.
I crave community. It is not good for me to be alone.
Knowing that there are people out there like me who crave community too - what can you and I do in the coming year to make that community a reality?