Last weekend it was full of small and big voices alike. The smell of Puerto Rican cooking filled the air, along with chatter, crying and squeals of laughter. Our house was full.
Monday morning was just too quiet. We had the house to ourselves. The guest room was empty and nobody was asleep in the living room.
It's funny how quiet can be both comforting and discomforting.
All quiet on the home front
I took our youngest daughter, our son-in-law, and youngest grandchild to the airport Sunday morning. It was a long day of travel for them, and it will be a long time till we see them. They'll be in Germany for the next three years. We already miss them a lot.
The same day, our oldest daughter went back home, and mom and dad picked up our other two granddaughters that night. That's when the quiet hit.
Being away from family is nothing new for us after living in the Philippines for fifteen years. It's not about the empty nest syndrome, because all four of our children have spent time living with us over the past couple years, and my mom lives with us, as well.
It's about the closeness of family. We love it.
We've lived in close quarters with others over the years.
We lived with several other families at a church and retreat ministry in the Southern California desert back in the 1970's. It stretched our faith and challenged us in ways we didn't expect. It was a multi-generational mix of families with lots of dynamics.
When we established an orphanage ministry in the Philippines, it started out in our home. Later we built several buildings, but it was still a communal type of lifestyle. We were on call 24/7. It was a dual-ethnic, multi-generational extended family.
Many have asked us if it was hard to live in these settings. The short answer, yes. Living and working in the same place with other people can be tough. Conflicts are bound to come, and it's not always smooth sailing. But the rewards of living in community are worth it.
The rewards of living in community are worth the difficulties
A shared life
Community is about shared life. It's not a romantic notion, but doable. Being friends on Sunday or in social media doesn't come close. It requires having something in common, and genuine commitment is necessary.
A shared life is what we see in the early church, not just in Jerusalem (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35), but with other church plants found in Acts. I believe it's what Jesus intended for His church worldwide.
Small groups and house churches provide great opportunities for building community. But it doesn't have to be programmed or formalized.
The key to good community is shared life. This can't be faked, manufactured, nor manipulated. It requires a commitment beyond a "what's in it for me" attitude.
Community is about shared life.
Do you want community?
Many people say they want community as in the early church. But I wonder, do they know what it requires? Those of us who've lived in close community do know.
There are many healthy Christian communities that exist. So, why doesn't it exist more often? Although there are lot's of reasons, I can think of one simple thing. A shared life may be too close for comfort.
Community requires a willingness to not seek our own comfort zone. It requires commitment to and acceptance of others. It also means people are going to be in your business—your life business.
Community requires a willingness to not seek our own comfort zone.
Perhaps the real question is—how committed are you to God and His people?
Is a shared life too close for comfort for you? If so, maybe you need to ask who's kingdom you're seeking.