Christiana is a gem--sweet AND brilliant, she inspires me with her commitments to simplicity and joy (also, she sends me poetry magazines and homemade jam, so you know she is the best). I am so glad she chose to share with us some insight into her community, as we all have been called to the bruised and battered ones in some way or another. Be sure to check out her amazing sight for all things DIY and handmade (renew and sustain) and her lovely personal blog.
The Rocky Road
We’ve lived in rural intentional Christian community for four years, which is long enough to have learned that while life in community can be filled with joy and celebration, it can also be a messy business. Imagine hippies, anarchists, back-to-landers, radicals, pacifists, new monastics, environmentalists, melancholics, and idealists coming together to agree on a common rule of life.
Sometimes the depth of our brokenness shows up in hurt feelings, disunity, disconnection, victimization, and blame.
Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have been abused, lonely, and neglected. A good number of folks are attracted to intentional communities like this one because it offers them a family that will love and support them. Much of the time, they’ve been through the ringer. Their family of origin was the opposite of loving; they’ve been dragged through hell but still find a way to worship a loving God in charge of the world.
While I’ve experienced a good deal of loneliness in my life, before I came to community these kind of deep wounds were out of my experience. And I’ll admit that it scared me a lot. I was used to the pressed starchiness of church, where we could pretend we were clean and wholesome, unspoiled by the wrinkles of pain and sin.
Here we worship in old T-shirts, homemade dresses, broom skirts, and ill-fitting thrift store pants.My brothers and sisters are dripping with authenticity. They weep openly in church. They share and sometimes over share. But they don’t hide their pain.
I struggle with a violence inside me that says to find the road to happiness, to find my bliss, to follow my dreams, to take the easy path. But a lovelier voice whispers that the path I need to take is the one strewn about with the pain of my brothers and sisters, with uneasy answers, with uncomfortable and awkward relationships, with inconvenience, with difficult people and choices, with neighbors I don’t like and enemies I don’t want to love, with the vulnerability and humility my brothers and sisters have learned through years of sorrow.
To many, this kind of path would seem to go in the wrong direction, deep into the backwoods, off the golden road that leads to health, wealth, happiness, convenience, and success.
To many, it is a foolish, naïve, quaint or even destructive way to follow.
But this is the path of love. And the truth is, anyone who follows this difficult road is radical whether they have eschewed modern technology, live in the suburbs, refuse to vote, own a home, live simply, have no home, buy organic, or use food stamps.
If we are to live as Jesus would have us live, we are probably in for a rocky road, one that may well take us into places that will stretch us, challenge us or even seem desolate. But the good news is that grace, joy, peace and a profound relationship with Christ abound upon this path. And that is more fulfilling than any label, possession or security we could ever find or create for ourselves.
Mark 8: 34-37 (The Message)*
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (The Message)
“Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.”
* Sometimes I’ve read or heard a passage from the Bible so often it’s memorized, but some of it’s meaning has been lost. I’ve found The Message to be helpful for blowing away the cobwebs in my spirit and making the Bible new again.
For all the posts in the Downward Mobility series, please click here.