Sunday, May 15, 2011

Be in community.

A life lesson from some spring violets.

"Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common." (Acts 4:32)

"You can do anything you set your mind to!" "Be the best you you can be!" Self-discipline, self-esteem, self-motivated! Our culture does an excellent job of keeping each of us at the center of our own little world, so we are self-reliant. A few years ago I wrote an essay on the culture of English coffee houses. Our current coffee shop culture looks very different from the original coffee house design, which provided an environment of community and fellowship over a good cup of coffee. Now we head to Starbucks or our favorite local cafe with earbuds and a book, closing out everyone else (who are similarly equipped). This may not always be the case. We may go intentionally with friends, or stop to talk to people who are there. But the culture of communal isolation we indulge in (along with overpriced beverages) can't be ignored. 

One of the greatest issues the Church faces is Western culture. We are a blessed people with a multitude of talents, gifts, and resources, yet we are constantly in division against ourselves--not because we think everyone else is wrong, but we often remain convinced we are always right. A great lie we have bought into is the necessity of independence. Since we believe we can take care of ourselves, we either stifle our contributions to the communities we reside in or we refuse to allow others to act as members of the Body. Often, we fear that asking for assistance, turning over leadership in a project, asking for resources, and even asking for prayer will somehow demonstrate weakness. And, to some extent, it does.

We can't do it all. God has gifted each of us with a unique set of abilities, but He does not want us to bear the weight of the world's burden alone; He already has. The early Church (as written in Acts) recognized the great blessing of community--being of one heart and soul, sharing so that no one was for want of anything. My favorite flower--the spring violet--is a tiny example of living life fulfilled in community. Each spring, these tiny flowers pop up in yards in clusters and appear generally less invasive and distracting than dandelions. Rarely do you see a spring violet flower alone, and the small patches they grow in include flowers on tall and short stems, all thriving in different places but inseparable from their neighbors. 

Each time I see those little purple faces, I am reminded of the people I need in my life. No matter where the Lord calls us, He always calls us to be among others. And the necessity of belonging to a solid group of believers is absolutely essential, I have learned; we may pour out all we have to the world around us, but being poured into is equally important. This requires great humility, allowing others to love us, allowing others to walk alongside us, and allowing a three-Personed God remind us we were made for each other. You were made dependent.

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