I read an article recently on the topic of community. A particular sentence caused me to pause: “Western cultures are said to be losing the spirit of community that once were found in institutions including churches and community centers”. My mind came to an abrupt halt on the words, “losing the spirit of community”. I found myself responding more emotionally to this line than seemed reasonable. I have learned when this happens it’s an invitation for me to stop and prayerfully reflect.
While praying, I thought back about my own loss of community I experienced four years ago when we moved away from the area I had called home for more than forty years. While I came to Texas with an understanding that I wouldn’t know but a couple people, I didn’t really consider the impact of how my not being known by others would feel. I remember how overwhelming this realization felt and the deep sense of loneliness that washed over me. It took about two years for me to recognize a noticeable change and for a sense of feeling connected to take shape. And as I evaluate the changes between then and now I can identify a sense of knowing and being known. Yet I still find myself resonating with a loss of community.
The most significant difference between my community of friends now and then is size. My social circle of the past was quite large. In fact, I was often teased that there wasn’t a place I could go where at least one person wouldn’t wave hello. Is it a larger community that my heart longs for? As I prayed, it seemed this was certainly part of it. However, a wide social circle alone isn’t what I want because I desire relationships that have the capacity to be deep and satisfying. Both feel possible and both take time.
As I concluded this prayer time it seemed God was calling me to be intentional about two things. First, to nurture my current relationships. Second, to evaluate how I might go about connecting with more people. And while the first seems far easier to me than the second, I am so grateful to have paid attention to what was stirred in me by that article, and that I took the time to prayerfully seek what it meant.