The Fabric of Authentic Community
Sometimes we find authentic community where we least expect it. Last night I drove alone in the rain and dark to the home of a friend–a woman who I have known since I was 4 or 5 years old. As I stepped out of the car, I heard two familiar voices–two voices I had heard only once in 32 years. We loudly and enthusiastically greeted each other. Hugs–held slightly longer than usual–given all around. When we reached the front door, we let ourselves in and hollered a warm greeting up the stairs. I felt like a kid on my way to a birthday party.
Those 32 years apart did us some good. We each remembered the stories a little differently. We laughed. We cried. And, we shared openly about the years after high school–the good, the bad, and the not so pretty–that had entered our lives over the past 32 years.
Grace poured over us. Our story existed not in the 32 years apart but in the 18 years that had preceded it–in the mess and joy of a middle-class childhood in the Pacific Northwest. Eleven women of various faiths and household dynamics. Eleven women who walked–or stumbled–awkwardly–through braces, training bras, puberty, first crushes, first kisses, and first loves. Eleven women who had seen each other through it all during those years–suicides, eating disorders, abuse, and risky behaviors; love, bat mitzvahs, and confirmations.
Somewhere among the mess and joy of growing up, we grew into a community. We were knit together. Lives weaved into a beautiful fabric that, in our youth, we had not even realized or appreciated. And now, that fabric, with all its flaws and beautiful colors and textures, enveloped us.
I smiled. So this is how authentic community feels. As I shared with those women last night, I understood God’s definition of living in community. And, today, I realized how much my heart has longed to know that tangible, authentic, community. A community that endured much and grew closer because of, or in spite of, what it endured.
And, I pause: where is that authentic community in the rest of my life–at church and in my neighborhood? I see glimpses of it. Beautiful glimpses. But, not like the community that sprang from the innocence and openness of childhood. In authentic community, I know the beautiful, heartfelt moments. I know the laughter that washes over us and how we laugh until we cry.
In community, I know Christ. Those ancient, sacred words remind me, “love one another.” In those moments I know fully what loving one another means. My cup runneth over.