I crave community, and yet I run from it too.
A lifetime of moving around, of goodbyes, of starting over, makes you hesitate in forming new deep relationships. Closes you off to people, encourages you to filter what you show and what you say.
I have been around these people for 18 months now, and they have loved me, and they have accepted me. They have sat with me in silence when my soul was void of words, they have put their arms around me and encouraged me to keep going, just for one more hour. They have prayed countless prayers without being asked, without being thanked. They have opened their homes, given me their time, used their energy, simply to love me. I have been grateful, I have been overwhelmed.
Yet still there is a resistance to trust, a resistance to bond deeply, a resistance to let them see it all. I love what I have with them, and I crave more, yet whenever the opportunity to deepen that community arises I run. I sit there sometimes during conversations and look at them, I dare myself to tell them a truth, to let them see, and yet each time I back away. I sit there tears close to my eyes because what they speak of is so close to my heart and I want them to understand, but I run before the tears have a chance to roll. I resist at every pull.
Recently though, something has changed. These people who have loved me and stood by me have worn me down, broken up my barriers. I find myself sharing things I would never have dared to. Letting them see my heart. Showing them the good and the ugly. Allowing them to experience not just my laughter but my tears too.
I am richer for it, I more blessed for it, and I am changed by it.
I am overwhelmingly grateful for these few who have loved me into being vulnerable, and I wonder how I will leave them behind, but I know that they will be carried in my heart, and I in theirs. For now, I belong. This, this is community.
What aspects of community do you find hard?
She wrote me an email, well she wrote us an email, close friends and relatives all included; I really wasn’t very interested, it seemed long and things I knew she would soon recount to me over skype. I decided to save it till another day.
The “nother” day arrived. To read her familiar words was good, but over all I wasn’t that interested in the content. I sat there reading it emotionless. Emotionless that is until that one line, the line about a neighbor delivering a home-cooked meal upon their arrival home after a long journey, and the many text messages received welcoming them home. Suddenly my heart was aching and the tears were streaming. Such love and community demonstrated.
I miss that level of community. To really “do life” together. To be helped without having to ask. To be planned for even in your absence. To be showered in love and provision when you least expect.
Isn’t that what community is all about? To be sharing honestly and openly. To be living so closely no-one has to ask for help, the need is simply seen and tended to. To be loved when you’re least deserving. To care for others even when it doesn’t fit neatly into your schedule, to be aware at all time, to be fully in each moment, to fill the gap whether we feel like it or not. To support one another, to love each other, to be fully engaged in each others lives, to be there, and be all there. When it comes easily, and when we have to work hard at it.
All of the time.
What is your experience of community?
What do you think true community consists of?
I’m trying to be inspired and getting my writing back, but it’s taking a while. So in the meantime I thought I’d share this post for you. I wrote it just over a year ago on my old blog, and it gives a glimpse into what I do in Central Asia, and why.
Self Immolation is the act of setting oneself on fire, normally with the purpose of ending one’s life. As with all suicidal means, it is also used as a way of escaping their current life, or as a cry for help.
Self Immolation is a common issue among women in this country. I am told that across the country cases seem to be lessening, over the past few years, as women’s rights increase and more freedoms are given.
Women who survive and are treated in the various burns units across the country often tell tales of how they were unhappy with their standard of living. Forced marriages, domestic violence, abuse from in-laws, being forced to stay inside the home, lack of access to education, extreme poverty, all these are given (often combined) as reasons for the suicide attempt.
I often go to visit organized groups of poor women in their homes as part of my work here. The other day I went to one of these groups and one staff member noticed that one of the ladies (We’ll call her Obeda) was missing, we asked after her and this is the story that was given to us:
“Obeda died last week. She was very upset with her life, she was not given permission to do anything, coming to this group was the only time she could leave her house. Her husband would be very angry at her, and if she did something wrong he would hit her. Her life was very difficult, and she was sad. One day X and I heard her scream, it was the daytime and I knew her husband was at work. I ran to her compound and when I went through the door I could smell the diesel, I saw fire on her body, then X came into the compound too. We fetched water and put it on Obeda but her burns were very bad. We took her to the hospital, the doctor said she was very ill. The next day she died.”
I had never met Obeda, but some of my colleagues had, she was a young women, late 20’s. I am told that she was always eager to learn, and that the group was where she found her identity and breathing space.
Stories like that of Obeda are far too common here, the issues she faced in life, and the way she chose self immolation to end it. This is one of the reasons I do the work I do, to help women realize their rights, to help them be able to discuss issues of domestic violence, forced marriages, lack of education, to teach them how to cope with emotional stresses, to diffuse conflicts in the household, to try and break the cycle of some of the negative things, and to reenforce and encourage the many positive aspects. To work to bring joy, hope, and freedom.