In yesterday's post, I had a short list of ways I'm going to allow myself to blossom this coming year. The last point, on growing in community, is a sticking point for me. My introverted, occasionally shy nature doesn't easily translate to community- and friendship-building. I am far too comfortable at home alone with my kids.
It's destroying me.
I know it. And I'm admitting it here because I need to make myself accountable.
I believe strongly that we are meant to live in community with one another. It isn't only that we are social animals: I believe that Jesus Christ calls us to live in community. But that's easier said than done in an age of nuclear families and single-family dwellings. The fact is that if I am going to exist in community - if my family is going to live in community with other families - we will need to be inventive. Or, perhaps not inventive, but retrospective. Community is hardly a new idea. We don't need to invent ways of living in community, only re-imagine the manner of its expression and the form of its experience.
I read this last week and I'll be re-reading it for the next few months. It is time to embrace community, to allow myself to grow with others, to express and experience greater love and encouragement. It is time to make - and be - friends, not just occasionally but with regularity and in commonplace and reliable ways.
My photo project for this year, self|52 is part photographic exercise, part impetus to become more in tune with my identity. The upshot is, I need to become more comfortable with others and more comfortable with myself. And I'm already finding myself occasionally struggling with my role and function in our family...
It sort of begs the question: who am I comfortable around? Is there anyone?
It's two sides of the same coin. How can I be comfortable in community, in authentic, genuine, sincere, open-hearted, loving relationship with others if I'm not sure of who I am, or at least, confident that I am expressing myself honestly?
I think about the term "selfless". We - particularly we in the church - use this word as though it is a good thing. It's good to be totally without self.
No way. I cannot buy that. Giving of self: yes. Willing and able to pour ourselves into serving others: absolutely. Accepting of the will of God to direct our lives, to inform ourselves: without question. But selfless? No.
Who am I, if not a child of God? Am I really so presumptuous as to say that the person, the individual, unique and blessed, that She created in crafting this soul is so worthless that I can cast it aside and be 'selfless'? No.
Luke 10:27(b) reads: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Until earlier this year, I had always interpreted these words only as an exhortation to treat others well. But in February I realized that such a reading is unnecessarily limited.
If Jesus loves me, shouldn't I love me, too?
And if I'm lovable, shouldn't I share myself with others? Shouldn't I share my life and my thoughts and my love and my passion and my realness with other living, thinking, loving, passionate, real people? Shouldn't I welcome them and welcome the opportunity to be with them, to grow with them?
Isn't it deliciously ironic that I am best able to realize and express the need for community when I'm given time to myself?
I need to exist in relationship with others. Too often I've heard truths about myself - about what and who I am, from the people who surround me, who love me, who see my own realness - which I had not seen before. My first step on this existential journey is to acknowledge that I cannot do this alone. I cannot merely reflect on myself: I need to see myself reflected in the people around me.
It's probably going to be uncomfortable. I'm not just a homebody, I'm actually prone to agoraphobia and anxiety issues. So it's going to be seriously uncomfortable at times. But it needs doing, and I know - without question - that I'll be happier for it.