Friday, June 18, 2010

On Community

A little less than a year ago Corrine and I joined a bible study group.  A couple of our friends had an idea to start a small, in-home bible study group with us and a few other close friends of ours.  We thought it was a great idea.  We started our bi-weekly, child free, bible study shortly after. 

When we first started it was a bit awkward.  This is mostly because nobody really knew where we were going to start, what we were going to be studying, and how deep we were going to go.  So our first meeting was pretty much setting the foundational ground rules for our group.  We hummed and hawed about how we’d like it to be this or that, all surface level stuff.  Finally someone said, “I want this to be deep.  I’ve been in a lot of surface level bible studies that I get bored with.  I want this to be life changing.”

Why is it that we feel that we have to be over protective of ourselves?  And is this healthy?  Is it healthy to hide our emotions, our thoughts, our ambitions with others?  Is it healthy to hide our pain and fears from others?  I think to a certain level.  But I think we need to really rethink why we’re doing it.  We each have a past; we each have things that we feel guilty about, things that we’re embarrassed about.  But what is it that keeps us from sharing ourselves, and more so, what is this hiding keeping us from?

I transferred to Oak Hills halfway through my junior year.  Now transferring so late isn’t recommended.  It added another year onto my education, which meant more school loans.  When I transferred, Corrine and I were six months into what turned out to be a two year engagement.  It was very hard for me to enter into the community at Oak Hills.  I figured I’d be out of there soon enough, I didn’t have to try and make friendships that were going to dissipate after two years.

The first couple months were tough for me.  I had a dink as a roommate (who flunked out after only a month), everybody had their own cliques already, and I was the new guy.  I could see how everyone else was relating to each other.  My semester at BSU I had a dorm room all to myself and an Xbox, so I didn’t make any friends there.  I grew to be content with living alone, it was comfortable, I didn’t have to watch what I said or who I said it to.  I was the King of my domain, which was a 12’ x 12’ room across the hall from the bathrooms.  So when I moved out to Oak Hills, and they had different things set up to encourage community, I grew into a wall flower.  It was the loneliest I have ever felt.  Luckily one of the community building programs they have at Oak Hills is a small group program.  

Once a month during chapel time we’d split off into small groups.  The small groups had a wide variety.  There was trail hiking to playing Rook to poetry to cooking.  The small group I chose was the Men’s small group.  The OHCC Director of Men, John Weir, was leading a small group.  Some of the guys that I had started to befriend were joining this group, and like the tag-a-long I was, I went with them.  What I didn’t know is how this small group was going to change me. 

I attended the small group thinking it was going to be a bunch of guys burping, farting, talking sports and hunting, and maybe even tearing a wall down just to rebuild it again.  Well, I was wrong.  We met in John’s office on couches.  We’d talk about feelings, emotions, why we feel we have to be macho.  We’d talk about how we validate ourselves as men.  I was hit by a ton of bricks.  Never before had I entered into this sort of personal evaluation. 

I didn’t say as much as some of the other guys.  Both my parents were still married and loved each other.  My father was a huge part of my life and I didn’t have to deal with the idea of fatherlessness like some of the other guys.  When that semester ended, I walked away a new, contemplative and emotionally healthy man. 
I tell you this story because if it weren’t for the community that I lived in at Oak Hills, I don’t think I’d be the same today.  Community is set up to be life changing.  It’s set up to improve us, help us grow, and better us as people.  The question we need to ask ourselves is, do we feel that same community in church?  And if not, why not?  And the biggest question is how to we change the way we’re doing things to better improve our church community?  The answer is not to leave our church and find something different.  The answer lies within each of us; it’s the blessed spirit of unity that comes through the gospel.  That’s why the Bible talks so much about marriages between men and women, God and his people, Christ and the church, etc.  It’s the same reason that the Bible talks against division.  Christ calls us into unity as a community.  It’s through this community that we grow individually and change lives.  And if we don’t change lives, then we’re just another meeting on the calendar.  And that could be the furthest thing from Christ as anything.

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