Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Community and Beyond

I’ve been reading through past blog posts to inspire me for an upcoming raw food detox that we’re doing, and came across one that I’d written over ten years ago. It’s made me think about how much more we understand the purposes of God for us as a family than we did ten years ago.

The ten year old post definitely deserves a postscript-- an update. Ten years on, we are living in another culture and cultivating a different community, understanding more than we did in those days.

When Dan and I first began to spend time together as a couple, we did so in community. We spent more time with others than we did alone. Even our alone times were spent in the Blue Cafe, where we regularly went for coffee and built relationships with the staff who worked there even as we worked on building our own relationship. Opening our lives to others has been at the core of who we are as a couple from the very beginning; it was what had been modelled to us by those who were discipling us. This continued on into our early married life as we opened the door of our tiny flat with open house evenings including multiple young people, dinners with other couples, coffee and tea with friends, squeezing them into our space along with our twin babies who came along at the end of our first year of marriage. We moved up the hill to a home that, though small, had a design that was excellent for the open door lifestyle that we felt characterised our purpose. We had small group meetings, game nights, Sunday lunches for students, birthday celebrations, and other families with children over to play. Opening our home also meant inviting others to stay for extended periods: friends and family in need, exchange students, overseas visitors. Eventually we had a Sunday evening open house, which allowed others to bring friends along. We didn’t know everyone who came, but eventually they all became part of community, living life with us. It was never easy. 

After ten years of this revolving door, we moved to the US. At first it felt like a break, a long holiday. Then we began to look around us to find the people who God was calling us to do life with. Sure enough, after a while we began to realise who they were and we began the process of building community again. Now in another home, another place, our door is open and though it looks a little different, in many ways it’s exactly the same. Our home is a place for connecting with others, sharing life, praying through difficult times, and seeing God work in the lives of many. Our children have grown up in this understanding, and they know that though we do set aside specific family-only nights, our home belongs to others, too.

As I wrote in the original blog post, loving people as if they were Jesus creates community. There’s no special treatment given to those I can gain from as opposed to those who have nothing to give. Sometimes the house is neat and tidy when people walk through our door; at other times it’s chaotic and not very clean. Sometimes we are struggling with our attitudes and have little to offer; at other times our spirits are connecting to God’s Spirit and we have encouragement and wisdom to give. We are honest and open in those times that things are not going well; we don’t avoid communication or people and don’t pretend that everything is all right when it’s not. There is always welcome, though, and always a safe space.

Does creating community from home look the same for everyone? No. Our callings vary, and our different levels of capacity vary, too. But we are all called to live generously. It’s not always comfortable, never easy, and requires us to be open, honest communicators. It requires us to give up our lives. We cannot remain in our own self-contained castle if we want to live generously.

There's a connection between what we do as a family and the purposes of God. Of course there's the collective purpose that God has for all of us who are following the way of the Messiah: "go and make people from all nations into disciples"; and then there are also the individual callings and spiritual giftings that help us to do that. We’ve been studying Philippians as a family, and as we read through chapter 3 the other day, I realised again how necessary it is that we ALL understand what Messiah Yeshua’s purpose --His calling-- is for each us. 

Mine and Dan’s mutual understanding of the call on our lives to create community and live with an open door has been a foundation of our lives together. We have lived this out for twenty years and are well acquainted with the ups and downs as well as, at times, our own lack in fulfilling this call to shepherd others. Our ability to live generously by opening our home to the capacity that we are able to is definitely our gifting. I know that the “open door” of our home is Messiah's purpose for us, no matter what culture we are in or where we live. It will always be that way. Our children may inherit some of that purpose from us, though it may look slightly different for them. They may be able to live generously in other ways. For this is what an open door is really all about: a tool for living generously as we pursue the goal of what it is that the Messiah took hold of us for. 

“But the things that used to be advantages for me, I have, because of the Messiah, come to consider a disadvantage. Not only that, but I consider everything a disadvantage in comparison with the supreme value of knowing the Messiah Yeshua as my Lord. It was because of him that I gave up everything and regard it all as garbage, in order to gain the Messiah and be found in union with him, not having any righteousness of my own based on legalism, but having that righteousness which comes through the Messiah’s faithfulness, the righteousness from God based on trust. Yes, I gave it all up in order to know him, that is, to be conformed to his death, so that somehow I might arrive at being resurrected from the dead. It is not that I have already obtained it or reached the goal-- no, I keep pursuing it in the hope of taking hold of that for which the Messiah Yeshua took hold of me. Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet gotten hold of it; but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God’s upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua. Therefore, as many of us as are mature, let us keep paying attention to this; and if you are differently minded about anything, God will also reveal this to you. Only let our conduct fit the level we have already reached.” [Philippians 3.7-16]


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