I have the immense privilege of doing life with the best group of people I’ve ever met. There is no way to describe how amazing they are or how blessed I am to know them, and serve with them, and laugh with them. They are just the best group of people you’ll ever meet. We are a rag tag bunch of individuals, each with our own quirks, flaws, faults, and strengths, and yet somehow we have combined to create this amazing, unique family.
Since before I can remember my heart has longed for deep community. I’ve had dear friends, I’ve had groups that have come close, but nothing quite satisfied the longing. I prayed and prayed, and went from church to church looking for a group I could do life with, but for 3 of my 4 years at school I came up empty. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, my friend David suggested that we lead a life group together, and then Radical was born. We prayed that God would bring the right people. We prayed and prayed and then prayed some more. We had a vision for this special little group; that it would honor God, that He would be the one leading it, that we would serve our community and the world, and that we would become not just friends, but family. Often I am overwhelmed with gratitude, because these people are such a blessing to my life. We laugh together, and have a grand ol’ time, but it’s so much more than that. We live our lives together. We encourage one another in our endeavors, we impel one another closer to Christ, we rejoice together and mourn together, we serve together and pray together. I live with 5 other girls that are in this group, and some of the guys in our group are getting a house together in the neighborhood our church is in. This neighborhood is rather overcome by poverty, crime, and even drugs, and these modern day warriors are dedicated to showing the love of Christ to our neighbors. I’m so proud of them, and excited to be a part of what they are doing even in a small way.
I say all of that to prove a point. We were created to live life in community. The Christian book industry has tried to convince us that our walk with God is meant to be walked alone. That depth and growth with God can only be accomplished in a room by ourselves. I disagree. I’m not saying that alone time with God isn’t important, because it is! After all most of this book is about stillness, about taking time to be alone. BUT community is so key in our growth, and in keeping our sanity. God has spoken to me more through these people than through any preacher or sermon. When I am with them I want to be better simply because of the way they live their lives. I’m learning so much about what it means to love without condition or expectation. I’m learning what it takes to include other people in my story, to take their feelings and thoughts into consideration when making a decision, because in the words of Donald Miller, “The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me.”
When we live our faith alone, we start to believe that life is a movie and we are the stars. We slowly, accidentally, begin to believe that we don’t need anyone else, and that we are the most important person in our lives. When we live in community it causes us to live a more selfless life, a life that is for God and for others, not for ourselves. In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller quotes a man name Bill, who works at a Bed and Breakfast and selflessly serves the guests, treating them as better than himself. Donald Miller asked Bill how he kept a good attitude with so many people abusing his kindness, and Bill said something that is so essential for us to remember, “If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether or not we are really following Jesus.” There are many times where I don’t want to put other people needs, and desires above my own, in fact there are many times where I don’t. But living in community is teaching me how. It’s forcing me out of my selfish, little comfort zone, into a place where I have to learn how to care for others more than I care for myself. I think that living in community is a little bit of heaven here on earth, just a taste of the amazing things we will experience with God.
I need to be clear, I am not saying that we should never spend time alone, with Abba, living out some of our faith in our own space. There are some things that God needs to whisper to us in the quiet. But we have have to careful of extremes entering into our life. We don’t want to spend so much time in community that we miss God’s still small voice, or that the busyness distracts us from His will, but we also don’t want to spend so much time in quiet and stillness that we miss the opportunity that community gives us. To love, and grow, and cherish, and be cherished. We have to be sure to pursue God in the quiet and in community. To seek his voice in silence, and amongst the people we do life with. To remember that life isn’t about us, it’s about God and people. As Luke 10:27 says, “Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”