Community. It’s quite the buzz-word these days. Everyone wants it, yet no one seems to feel like they have it. Especially in a city the size and pace of Atlanta, it can be easy to feel lost in the crowd.
But I hear this complaint most frequently from people who are part of wonderful communitites. So I think the question begs to be asked: What exactly is community, anyway? And how do we attain it?
I’m no guru on this topic, but I’ve learned a few things along the way on my life journey so far. So here’s what I think, for whatever it’s worth.
I think community has multiple levels. We all need:
a) intimate relationship with God,
b) intimate relationship with a few close friends (which includes family and a spouse for many people), and
c) relationship with a broader community of people, with varying levels of aquaintanceship. (Is that a word?)
So, when you feel like you need “community,” I think it helps address the problem if you ask youself which aspect of community you mean. Are you missing a thriving relationship with God? Do you have any people in your life with whom you share your junk? Do you have a broader community of people to whom you belong? Depending on which of these elements is missing, you then need to take action.
If you don’t have a relationship with God, check this out as a starting point for beginning that relationship. If you do have a relationship with God, but it feels dull and lifeless, invest some energy into revitalizing it. This may take some honesty, some confession, and some surrender on your part, but it really is well worth it. It may take some large chunks of time – maybe a personal retreat or a day spent just with the Lord. Whatever it takes, do it. I can tell you from very personal experience, this “community,” if you will, is the foundation of all others. It is beautiful, sweet, and life-giving.
Are you missing good friends who live in your area and are a regular part of your life? Time to invest some energy in pursuing people. In many ways, this is easier if you already have a broader community (i.e. a church or campus ministry, in your classes or at work, with a hobby you can do with a group, wherever).
Begin to look around for people who you think would be able to walk in deep places with you. They may not be exactly like you, but they can go the extra mile with you. One of my closest friends is opposite my personality in almost every way, yet as we grew to know each other through work situations, she became one of my most trusted friends.
But if you want good friends, you’re going to have to pursue them. Ask them to hang out. Do a Bible study or read a book together. Go to a concert together or to coffee or grab a meal together. One of my friends in Atlanta and I became friends because we were joining the church at the same time, and she asked for my number, called me up, and asked me to go see Nickel Creek with her. The rest is history! So if you are suffering from lack of good friends, pursue some.
And then realize that relationships of depth do take time to develop. They don’t happen in one night. Relationships are like planting trees from seeds; it takes a long time for them to grow to maturity. But you can enjoy each stage of growth!
Lastly, if you’re not in a broader community of people, you probably still feel the lack of community in your life. A [good] church is a fantastic place for this type of community – all ages and stages of life, people who genuinely care about each other and can help care for you when life gets really difficult, and opportunities to get to develop deeper friendships.
So, if you’re feeling a lack of community in your life, make sure your relationship with God is on track, then be proactive to create what you seek and enjoy the people you meet along the way.