fitting in well with a person’s needs, activities, and plans.
“I phoned your office to confirm that this date is convenient”
synonyms: suitable, appropriate, fitting, fit, suited, agreeable; More
trouble-free, labour-saving; useful, handy, practical, serviceable; user-oriented
I have come to the conclusion that genuine community is inconvenient.
Genuine and authentic community requires compromise, it requires sacrifice, it requires flexibility. Authentic community requires you, as an individual to step outside of your comfort zone. It requires you to get un-busy! Yes, un-busy is a word….now.
And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but “Hi, how are you?” & “Oh, I’ll pray for you!”, after-church-service-banter on a Sunday morning, is not actually community. GASP!
I live in a western culture that bombards me with ideas of convenience. Convenience stores, convenience foods, convenient hours, convenient location, convenient packaging, relationships of convenience, marriages of convenience. All these conveniences, focus on me the consumer, and my ease of access to and use of whatever is being conveniently offered.
I am part of a generation of people who bustle around, carrying within ourselves a sense of self-importance, opportunistically seeking to have our own needs met as easily and conveniently as possible.
I am part of this generation, but something happened to me….
Holy Spirit started stirring me.
Suddenly, these scriptures I was reading, ones encouraging me to love others as much as I loved myself, were becoming harder to ignore. These scriptures that were calling me to be in the world, but not of the world, started to sink in, and they weren’t content to sit latently in the pit of my conscience, they wanted to burst forth into reality.
These ideals of community that I had oft spoken of, were going to have to extend past lip service.
I realised, somewhat uncomfortably, that if I was going to take this whole God journey seriously, I was going to have to shift my focus, I was going to have to shift MY comfort.
I am content with my cozy bunch of friends, we all bring something different to the friendship mix, and we’ve struck a beautiful, humorous and harmonious balance. Bliss!
But that blissful bubble of friendship harmony I’m a part of, is nothing more than an elitist clique if we don’t make room for extras, if we’re not actively seeking out those who are looking in from the outside, trapped under a storming cloud of loneliness and exclusion, and then welcoming them with open arms, open hearts.
A couple of months back, I was flicking though my husband’s Facebook newsfeed (with his permission of course, I wasn’t having some hormone-fuelled, jealous spousal meltdown. Not this time anyway…).
As I was flicking through, I said, out loud; “What? Your Facebook is different from mine!”. Yep, I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes (ok fine, most times). But I had embarrassingly assumed we all received the same content, despite the fact we all have different social circles.
It was only in that moment of discovery that it dawned on me; In this world of modern technology, we have the option of customising nearly all of our incoming information so that it presents itself in a way that we like, a way we’re comfortable with, a way we can relate to, a way that reflects our views, our interests.
This customisation is great! Except when it’s not.
Except when it shapes our thinking into the belief that community means we have to be surrounded by people we like, people we would choose to be best friends with, people who won’t challenge us, won’t stretch us or test our patience and our conflict resolution skills.
You see, Jesus didn’t give us this choosy luxury, instead He said; “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…” (John 15:12 NKJV).
He didn’t include exceptions. He didn’t say you have to ‘like’ them!
In 2003, Casting Crowns released a song called; ‘If We Are The Body’.
One line in this song haunted me, it reads:
“Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come”.
This caused a conviction in me that I couldn’t ignore. A conviction that required me to change. To rearrange my life in order to make room for disruption, for flexibility, for an enlargement of my social circle and my social awareness. I needed to make room for people. Any people. All people.
Am I now the embodiment of a ‘Perfect Christian’, one who nurtures all and constantly looks to include all those who have been pushed aside? No, partly because they don’t exist! And truthfully, because I’m still a selfish, self-focused individual who forgets that she has been created for organic, authentic, genuine community, a community that represents the trinity and it’s glory. However, with the abundant grace God offers, I’m getting better. I’m trying to connect to the humanity of any individual who may cross my path, to recognise in that humanity that there is an individual story, and within that story there lies a need for acceptance, love and fellowship. I must make room for it.
No, it’s not convenient. Yes, I sometimes end up spending time with people who I would not have chosen to be ‘my people’. But the reward of seeing them connected, of seeing them gain the confidence to shoo away that storm cloud of loneliness and embrace the sunlight of friendship, is something that gives gratification to the spirit. That kind of reward is priceless!