I am a rock. I am an island.
Except that I’m not!
The popular Paul Simon lyrics spoke truth to many hearts who had shut out love, and with it the chance for heartbreak. But what about when those walls of our fortress – deep and mighty, are real?
How many of us even know our closest neighbors? Often when we move into a new neighborhood, there are no brownies or cookies delivered by a welcoming committee of well-wishing and curious neighbors. Rather, we may catch suspicious glances through crumpled curtains or slightly opened blinds instead.
Our houses are built to be airtight, and central heat and air almost guarantee our windows remain seasonally closed. We catch glimpses of one another at the mailbox and going to and from the driveway into our airtight cars.
On the rare instance we cross paths, we politely nod at one another, indicating that our conversation is in fact directed at someone on the other end of our earpiece, instead of one another. Our personal cells and handheld devices give us the comfort of knowing we don’t even need a neighbor in a crisis or emergency situation.
But what about needing one another in the small moments of the day-to-day? And what about our community at large – beyond our neighborhood? Do we need them? Do we need each other at all?
I say yes! Scripture teaches us time and again how exactly to love our neighbor, witness to our neighbor, and draw our neighbor into the body of Christ with us.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.~Hebrews 10:23-25
What is community?
If you’ve found the walls of social niceties standing firm – even in Christian groups such as these, then it’s time to do some demolition! If women are afraid to speak the truth when another woman rails on her husband, or a man holds back when another makes light of pornography, then there are walls that still need to come down.
Theory meets practice
These things may sound good in theory – getting families together on Sundays for lunch and fraternity after Mass, women’s and men’s groups, prayer meetings. Suddenly I see Laura Ingalls Wilder in my mind, unpacking a picnic lunch with her family in a field after church service. But Laura had something we don’t; time. I’m sure Laura didn’t have homework that ran her into the ground each night, sports games on the other side of town while cramming dinner somewhere in between. The world we live in has turned the 9 to 5 into 24/7.
Spouses are no better – living for months on end as ships passing in the night. The community they long for is often right under their own roof. But who’s willing to sacrifice? Who gives up their yoga night, poker night, movie night? Iron cannot sharpen itself.
Getting past self
This is the conundrum – getting past self. Unless we’re willing to make time, to be intimately open with others, and commit ourselves to making community happen, we cannot possibly encourage one another, and therefore cannot stir up one another to love and good works.
Life must first become more simple – priorities set, activities reduced. Focus is first on strengthening the community of our household, then our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our parish. All of these instances of love strengthen the body at large. Community is something we cannot do without, and more so as Paul says, as Christ draws near.
Better is a neighbor who is near
than a brother who is far away.~Proverbs 27:10