Disclaimer: when it comes to my blog, in most cases I tend to “leave others out of it,” as it were, for the sake of not sharing things that aren’t my own. But this is a post that has been burning on my heart for the past 6 months, which means I’m going to minorly break that rule.
As most of you know, I recently spent 10 months living in Colorado Springs with a dear friend and her family. I went into it somewhat warily with a guard firmly in place over my heart, carrying with me a catalog of warnings I had heard my whole life: “never room with your close friends.” “You won’t be close friends by the end, or you’ll wish you weren’t.” “These things don’t tend to end well.” “Be sure to find other living arrangements as soon as possible.”
In Acts 2, Luke (the guy recording the growth of the early church) wrote about something weird that happened when Christ’s grace started to get to people: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts...” (Acts 2:44-46, NIV 2011)
So basically, everyone sincerely gave what they had without expecting or feeling entitled to return, and somehow that filled all the needs and all the gaps in their fledgling community.
That takes an incredible amount of love. That takes people responding to the story of Christ, to His grace, in a very real, very tangible way with their whole heart and life stayed on Him. And (being a cynic at heart) I never really believed that sort of thing happened on any scale now. We live in a society rooted deep in the notion of achievement as the only way to acceptance, and despite the fact that my faith stands in stark contrast to that, I still believed on some subconscious level that the world would always operate on that same cultural lie. Colorado proved me wrong.
For 10 months my friend welcomed me into her home, into her family’s life, into her daily routine. Although she had every reason to require things from me in return, she consistently chose to keep giving unconditionally, without a single word asking for some kind of return. For my part the only things I had to offer freely mostly came in the form of time-- time playing with her vibrantly alive and constantly moving children, time doing dishes, time helping with grocery shopping. Even these small things were accepted gracefully, though I knew they were not required of me. And somehow there were never any holes, any wants, any tensions-- grace came alive in a way I have rarely seen in my life.
And I learned that this kind of grace sometimes looks like late night Sonic runs to pick up tater tots, like watching Doctor Who and sharing a bowl of queso, like sitting in a car talking for hours about life and God and how to love people, like trading obscure music knowledge back and forth, like making sure coffee is ready in the morning.
We seem to think that this concept of community, this thing called “church,” is complicated. I recognize that that can be true (people are complicated and imperfect and thus communities will always be complicated and imperfect). But sometimes beneath the over-thinking, being the Church is actually terribly simple. It’s being willing to give, and then give a little more (even if the one you’re giving to can’t give anything in return). It’s recognizing that no detail of life is too small to share with someone, just as no burden is too big.
These words are a challenge, to myself as much as anything, to be intentional about letting grace saturate our lives so much that it fills all the holes in our homes, in our churches, in our tattered world. And these words are also, in some small way, a thank you-- because sometimes the thing this cynic needs most in the world is simply to be proved wrong.
- Elraen -