A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, my wife and I found ourselves with two dear, dear friends of ours over breakfast. It was the usual chatter of kids, heart stuff, life stuff, and movies we had watched. There was laughter and there were some tears. It was rich.
And it is all too inconsistent in my life.
Confession: I am not happy with the present state of my community. It’s less than it needs to be and much less than my wife and I want it to be. Make no mistake we have some very dear and close friends in the area where we live. And one of the graces of itinerant work is we have friends scattered the world over.
Yet one of the liabilities of an itinerant work is being dislocated from consistent community. Community is hard to find even with a “normal” lifestyle. We are square pegs in our local church community’s round-holes. We just don’t fit because of our inconsistent presence due to our travel schedule.
Maybe you can resonate. It may be due to a high turnover in your community. Even our roles and titles can separate us. Being a shepherd – whether counselor, pastor, or care giver of any stripe – tends to set us apart at times. People think we have all the answers, live extra-ordinary lives free of struggles and failures, and sometimes think we are just plain weird. Which, in some ways, we are.
I lament community at times.
A Community Lament
I call the lack of consistent community in my life an ever present lament. I lament that we are not around enough to have regular dinners with friends or be part of a local, weekly small group.
How about you? Can you put words to any lament you may have in regard to community? Maybe you do not live as itinerant a schedule as we do, but yet find it a constant uphill chore toward deep, meaningful community. Lament is a crucial response to such a loss in life. A lament is a response of grief. Our losses must be named so they can be grieved. Lament is verbalizing a legitimate deep groan in our souls. It is not the same as complaining which has a tone of “this is not fair” to it.
Intentional, intentional, intentional. Community is hard work. For those of us who have itinerant or leader roles, we might have to work extra hard at this community thing. Do not give up. Keep pursuing. Do not sit at home hoping someone will call. Do not allow your heart to be closed off in this area of life. You must be intentional about community or it will not happen.
Shepherd’s Community Reality: A Sacrifice
An itinerant shepherd’s work requires much personal sacrifice. I have simply accepted that doing the work God has called us to give our lives to means we will likely never have “normal” community. It is one of the consequential sacrifices of our calling. I can either be bitter about it or I can embrace it and know that my Father sees and will tend to me.
How are you responding to God in this area of your life?
It would be a gift to hear some responses or ideas on this subject of community.
I too often lament consistent community. We see brief glimpses into what heavenly community might be like. Then life changes, friends get a mental illness or die, or just drift apart or move away, and community with people on the other side of the globe just doesn’t satisfy. I look forward to heaven where we’ll all be together again, where there are no more good-byes, where there are no personal insecurities to interfere with real community. I think the desire for consistent community is a heavenly desire, someday it will be fulfilled!
Thank you for your honest reflection. Yes, what will “community” be like in eternity? I think my feeble mind and cluttered heart cannot even grasp it. A deep longing ache for such as that. You stated it well. Thank you for sharing your heart. Be encouraged today.
I often lament my lack of community. After being the child of missionary parents and then doing 20 years of overseas ministry, I realized just how broad and shallow my relationship roots were. It got to the point that I didn’t feel connected at all. I’ve exited that ministry and am now in a place where I can invest in more stable relationships but everyone is so busy! And it seems like most people don’t create enough margin in their lives to be able to invest in community. It’s something that I will always be working on and throwing myself back on the Lord about.
Thank you for sharing from your experience.
You stated it well, “create enough margin in their lives to invest in community.” This is a wise practice for all of us to ponder. How can we create the space required for meaningful relationship? This is a spiritual practice after all. Well said. Thanks for your comment.
May it be so