welcoming visitors to community

I’ll never be the guy people feel drawn to for understanding community. No matter how long I ever live in it I feel like every day is some new beginning. People are so multidimensional. The way we interact is so simple and yet so different. I want to know everyone, be close to everyone, overcome every obstacle, bridge every gap, utilize all energy, solve every problem. But I often can’t just bring myself to say “Hi.”

These were my own words back in February of this year. Recently something happened to me that made me rethink that. I came home and my wife told me she got a call from her brother’s pastor in New Mexico. She was really surprised to hear him say that he was trying to do community and he wanted to talk to me. Later on he called and was planning a visit to the area and we arranged for he and a friend to come by for a visit. Now under any normal circumstances I get pretty uncomfortable when anyone talks about communal models, especially about wanting to apply what we do to something they’re already doing. Usually I get very cautious, even negative in those conversations.

In the week between when this pastor called and when I was to visit with him and give him a tour I did a lot of soul searching. I felt very inadequate. I don’t usually give tours and don’t host a lot of visitors. I could immediately think of dozens of others here who do it on a regular basis in a very fine fashion. So I tried to arrange for a few others to be there with me. That didn’t exactly work out, even with my advanced effort. This morning before our guests arrived I took some time to face my fears about hosting and touring. I was afraid of putting my life on display, plain and simple. I was afraid of being misunderstood, afraid that our way of life is just too complex for an afternoon tour. Afraid of giving my new friends the wrong idea. But for the most part, I just get uncomfortable every time I have to explain finances, health care, tax status, the logistics of common purse, proxemics, and for the umpteenth time why we choose to live this way.

So in that moment of quiet I surrendered all that fear to God and prayed to be used in His service. Beginning with lunch and all told for about four hours, my new friends plugged me and others with hard questions about the logistics of community life. They were intelligent questions, informed questions, questions born of real experience. And later as I was relating these back to other members we agreed that these questions often force us into recommitment. I’m put in a place to restate for a newcomer why this is my local faith expression, my Calling. Put in that position, I really better want to live it. One of these new friends must have asked the question, “What do you find fulfilling about this?” in like five different ways. Each time I had to pause and ask myself the question. My wife and I have been here in Chicago for going on fifteen years. I had to honestly say that the reason we came is not the reason we stayed. We have some honest, open, mutually fulfilling friendships. We have work that meets a need and gives us full hearts. The kicker is that we’ve managed to stick around long enough, to see impenetrable problems get resolved one way or the other. Showing up, taking life on its terms, crying, laughing, interceding for one another can’t help but create and meet new needs in our lives. After a while you make a real home for yourself.

So anyway, I’m saying that I was wrong in my other post. It’s not prideful of me to say that my story is significant and may be of benefit to someone else.

1 Peter 3:15: (NIV) “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Hospitality is its own reward. That’s been proven to me over and over again. Don’t let fear or feelings of inadequacy get in the way of just telling what you know. And if you’re not really sure what you know, maybe that’s all the more reason to reach out. We can’t really know what a treasure we have until we try to give it away.

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