Wednesday, July 11, 2012

community life

Lately I've been thinking a lot about community, specifically about the Church.  Living in communion with other people means that you share in their lives.  In other words, if you are truly involved and invested in a community, your happiness may be tinged with sorrow and your sorrows with happiness.

Pregnancy is so visible at this stage - it is obvious to everyone that a baby is on the way.  It is the springboard for many conversations about babies, pregnancies, due dates, names and more.  Yet as I get further along in pregnancy, I cannot help but think about women who are longing to be mothers.  The women who ache because they have been waiting for so long to carry a baby.  I can simply be going about my business buying groceries or walking into church, yet it is a reminder to a woman of an unfilled dream.  So even in our happiness, I want to be sensitive to those who are waiting and hurting.

At the same time, I was remember a couple stories of people I know who have carried babies to full-term even when they have been told that the baby is "incompatible with life."  We are thankful that (as far as we can tell) everything is going well with our baby.  But we also think of those families for whom pregnancy is a time of turbulent emotions.  I must trust that God has a plan in each individual situation so I cannot live in guilt or deny happiness over our baby.  But I want to be a friend who can walk with people through their sorrows and who truly empathized with those who are hurting.  After all, I have been the one who is hurting and, no doubt, it is only a matter of time before I am the one who is hurting again.

I had the same conflation of feelings at my wedding.  So, so happy to be marrying Mr. Mays...yet aware of the fact that some people wanted to be married and were still waiting.  And also aware that marriage isn't for everyone - some people are really happy being single and perhaps they get tired of the idea that marriage is the ultimate goal for all people.

This comes through in many other areas of life too.  Just because my grad school plans have been put on hold because of the baby, I still want to rejoice with those friends who have are getting their advanced degrees (lucky ducks! ;).  I remember being so sick in college and struggling to rejoice with friends over things when I kept thinking about the fact that I could barely walk back and forth to classes.  Everything that other people were happy about seemed so frivolous in the moments when I was waiting for a call from a doctor that could potentially change my life forever.

Ultimately, our motivation for living this way should be our desire to be like Christ.  He commanded this lifestyle and He modeled this lifestyle.  While on earth, He empathized with the people around him (think of his weeping over Lazarus' death, his care for the woman at the well, taking the time to talk to the women who was bleeding).  He could have been focused on His impending death and pain, yet He took the time to engage in life with those around Him and to be present in their sorrows and joys.

The best example I've heard of this style of living comes from a professor at Cedarville.  We were studying Psalms and I was struggling with the fact that we (as Christians) sometimes ignore the lament psalms.  My life at that stage definitely fit the psalms of lament more than the psalms of joyful praise and I was so incredibly annoyed with Christians who pretended that everything was perfect in life.  The professor said that living in community meant that we embraced both of these.  And then he shared a story from his life of a couple who very unexpectedly lost their adult daughter.  The entire church showed up to the funeral, mourning with them and surrounding them in love and support.  The very next day, there was a wedding at the church.  No one expected the couple to show up.  No one would have been offended in the slightest if they had stayed home in their grief.  Yet there they were.  When asked about it, they said (paraphrased), "Yesterday the entire Church mourned with us in our sorrow.  Now it is our chance to rejoice with the Church and show them the same love that they showed us."

May we all strive to have a similar attitude.

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