Out of Sorts: Surrendering to Community

It turned out that when you spend your afternoons outside in the neighborhood, the neighborhood knows who you are. When you hang out on your driveway to pass the time with every dog who gets walked past, the dog owners look forward to it. When you sit on the front steps and watch all the neighborhood kids play with your kids, their parents sooner or later come outside, too.
So maybe it’s not formal. Maybe it doesn’t have a nonprofit status. Maybe it doesn’t count as “going to church.” We drop food at someone’s house when they’re sick; no leader organized it. We just do it because this is what we do. This is being a person in a community. (Out of Sorts, p.110)

There’s this constant thought pops up during my life in ministry. And that is:
I feel like we’re making this way more complicated than it should be.”

In many ways I think this is the way of religion. We take something that is really very simple and attach all kinds of things to it because it has to be more complicated than that, right? This seems to be the foundation for a lot of Jesus’ frustration with the religious establishment of his day and probably what frustrates him about to this day.

This is why I love this chapter in Sarah’s book. She’s cutting through all of the religious clutter and getting us back to very simple truth.

Community and relationships are all about being a person.

“Community” has been this buzzword in the church for quite some time. I mean, the leadership in my church was just talking about it earlier this week. Churches structure programs and events to create “community.” We discuss how it is formed and ways we can manufacture it within our people. At times it seems like some elusive vapor we can never quite capture.

There’s a beautiful simplicity to what Sarah is teaching us:
Community and relationships are all about being a person.
It’s not something that can be manufactured or forced.

Religion does this to us in so many ways. It often feels like we’re attempting to beat ourselves into submission so that we can act, feel and think better. Like we’re working against our own nature to hopefully become more like Jesus. And I guess it works to some degree. I can by force of my will change some of my behavior. But it only goes so far.

That’s why religion sometimes feels like a series of really bad New Year’s resolutions. I may want to change, but my efforts only take me so far. It never really sticks.

The times when I feel God really working to change me feel a lot less like I’ve climbed a mountain and much more like I’ve finally surrendered.

When I’ve let go of the controlling grip I have on my life and the ways I’ve tried to force myself to modify my behavior. It’s when I admit who I am, where I’m at and simply allow myself to be real and present.

And this is how community happens. When I stop trying to control everyone’s perception of me and allow myself to be a real person. When I am not disconnected from my surroundings. When I’m honest. When I let other people see the real me. When I let them in. When I surrender all the ways I try to control and shape my interactions and actual listen and speak with honesty.

When I am human.

I love the way Sarah describes this as her “Somewhere.” The place where she allows herself to be human. That requires so much intentionality and courage. Sometimes it’s painful.

But it reminds me that every time I have let go of everything else and simply allowed myself to be who I am, something amazing has happened. I have found connection and healing and acceptance and love. All of the things I try like heck to produce and earn are the things that come to me instead as gifts.

And so many of the things I try to beat myself into being others have helped shaped me into becoming.

This is the beauty of true community.
This is how relationship works.
This is so much better than religion.
And it’s beautifully uncomplicated.

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