Our airplane tilts away over city rooftops, and I feel as if I am leaving home in order to return to a house. It is not an altogether blue feeling (it is a house inhabited by my favorite people, after all), but it is disorienting. An emotional confusion to match a physical one; as the plane banks, I can no longer tell if I am pointed toward ground or sky.
I’ve spent four days trying to understand what I left behind when I moved away from Chicago. It seems important to do this, because I do not yet know if my life is a straight line heading always away from it or a curve that will one day return. I think the only word for what has been lost is community, but that word seems beyond inadequate.
In Florida, when my husband leaves for a business trip, I lie awake wondering who I would call if one of the children had an accident or became suddenly ill. I know that there are people in our neighborhood and people in our church who would graciously, even eagerly, help out, but it would involve some tracking down of phone numbers and many apologies for having “bothered” them in the middle of the night.
Living in community meant that there were no apologies.
We frequently woke to midnight phone calls, whispered midnight prayers for friends in crisis, made beds on the floor for small children whose parents were racing to hospitals. I have rushed behind a curtain in the emergency room to find a friend sitting at my son’s bedside: the friend who held him down for the epi-pen, the friend who drove him to the hospital.
But community is so much more than a safety net.
It is a web of interdependence that is often uncomfortable, even painful. It is the downstairs neighbor who calls (again) because my children are pounding on her ceiling (again). It is the woman pushing the stroller down my street who asks me (again) for bus money. Walking near my old building this week, I saw her, remembered her, and was not at all surprised when she stopped me to ask for money. I passed her again on my last evening in Chicago, and she asked (again) for money. I hand over my bus pass knowing that she will always need, and I hope, for Jesus’ sake, that someone will always be there to give.
Community is trying to keep the kids quiet in the kitchen in order that the group of church ministry leaders meeting in the living room won’t be disturbed. Community is making the bed in the spare room for friends of friends. Community is waking up early to make them breakfast, too.
Community is being inconvenienced.
It is straightening up the living room in order to host a weekly gathering for a church small group when all you want to do is climb into bed. Community is when the unmarried, male graduate student from that same small group surprises you with home-cooked Indian food two weeks after your baby is born.
Community is life in abundance.
This is the gift of the one who made us (the one who said it is not good to be alone): to be poured out again and again in order to be filled again and again. Of course, I am not talking about martyring oneself so that bitterness and resentment destroy all hope of relationship. But I have seen that when I open my hands to give until it hurts I receive … oh, I receive so much in return.
On Sunday, I sat once again in my former church. I was joined by a friend, and we both had tears in our eyes just for the joy of sitting next to one another. She turned to me and whispered, “This is our life,” and I knew just what she meant.
This is our life: it is real, it is now, it is beautiful and difficult, and, above all else, it is shared.
I so get this! I had tears in my eyes as I felt like I could relate, even just a little
Such good words. Oh so true when your soul connects to a people that you call them home. Maybe that is how God wants us to feel… That when we are with Him, we are home. I think I will read this post over and over again.
Thank you, Alanna! “When we are with Him, we are home.” Well said.
Thank you dear Christie for your beautiful words. I’m printing this one and hanging it up in my kitchen.
I thinks this has been my favorite post so far. Thank you for sharing, and like Lisa, I had tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I look forward to so many more.
Thank you, Kristin! It means a lot to me to know that my words are connecting with others. It’s the encouragement I need to keep writing even if I have to turn on PBS Kids for an hour in order to do it!
HI Christy! Even after 13 years, Chicago feels more home to me than where I am presently living (mind you- the suburbs and the suburb way of living feels sterile, cookie-cutter like, and homogeneous in comparison to the life- on- life experiences in the city). I think you nailed it on the head my friend when you said, “It is a web of interdependence that is often uncomfortable, even painful” but … Gosh, I wish I could elaborate a bit more, but my mind is pretty muddled at this time of the evening.
Blessings my friend!!
It’s so interesting to me, Eun, that you feel similarly even after so many years away from the city. The thing that has surprised me most about the suburbs is how much less people need one another. You would think that’s a good thing but somehow it isn’t. Or, maybe we suburbanites are just that much more adept at keeping our needs hidden behind our cookie-cutter front doors?
What a gift you have my friend for living. What a gift you are to your community (online or not) for your clear perception! Your ability to reflect and share through your well chosen words. Every post I read soothes my lonely heart and this one, well…thanks.
You are welcome, my friend!