For a few years after college, I lived alone. No wife, no kids, no roommates. Just me. At times I was lonely but, to be completely honest, I didn’t mind it that much. In fact, I kind of liked it. The place was always clean (I’m a little compulsive about that), I went to bed when I wanted, got up when I wanted and pretty much did what I wanted. I never had to wait to do laundry and had very few interruptions when I was working.
Now my life looks considerably different. I’m married and have two kids. We’re part of a great church and love having people over for coffee, dinner or whatever. The only time the house is perfectly clean is after the kids have gone to bed (and even then, it’s questionable). Life is filled with interruptions, tears, laughs and a lot of chaos.
Here’s my point: community is messy.
I’m not against living alone but I am deeply concerned that so many in our culture have learned to live alone emotionally. Just to be clear, you can live in a house full of people and still live alone emotionally. Living alone emotionally is about building up walls where we never allow others to get to know the real us. It’s about keeping our relationships superficial enough where we have plenty of people to go to a movie with but no one we’re really committed to or investing in.
Pressing into relationships, whether it’s at work, school, home or church, is inviting a mess into your pristine isolation. If you let people in, they’ll bring their best and their worst. The more you get to know people, the more you realize they aren’t quite as perfect as they pretend. Sin, brokenness and hurt that can be hidden at a distance becomes unavoidable up close. Even worse, they’ll start to figure out all of your broken places as well.
I always want to pull back from community when it gets hard. When the relationship requires work, I want to give up. When things are awkward, I want to withdraw. But I know that is I do that, I miss out on a chance to grow.
I’ve come to learn that messiness is one of the surest signs that community is actually working. Neat and clean exists only in the world of shallow and superficial. Messy is reserved for the deep and vulnerable.
So, when community gets hard, keep pressing in. You’re finally getting somewhere!