I have had a tumultuous relationship with the church over the last few years.  I’ve celebrated with her and I’ve been deeply wounded by her.  I have wanted to walk away from her and I’ve had to wrestle with God that He uses the word “Bride” to describe her.  It is a term of deep affection and commitment…and so, because I love Him, I am compelled to love the things He loves.  But, if I were to be honest, over the last few years I have guarded my heart from her and although I’ve “shown up” to gatherings, I’ve stayed on the edges – cautious and sometimes skeptical.

It is funny…at the same time that I hear God calling me back to deep community, I find myself in a local church that is quite theologically different from where I’ve come from.  I am with people whom I do not always understand and who are “strange”.  Yet it is within this context that God is telling me to re-imagine community (and in many ways, to re-imagine what it means to LOVE).

“Can community be a spiritual discipline?” is the question I wrote in my journal the other day.

And this question will not leave me alone.  It keeps bouncing around my heart like that ball in a pinball machine – bouncing off different ramps and targets – causing an explosion of light and noise.  It will be scooped up for a moment and all seems at rest until it is propelled back into game play.  Perhaps God is at the helm, using the flippers to shoot the question back into and around my mind.

So…can community be a spiritual discipline?  For me right now, I think it is supposed to be.  I am to choose to show up, to engage in the conversations, to ask questions, and to grow in love, understanding and forgiveness.  However, being in community is difficult because it is not just an outward practice but an inward process as well.  It exposes me for the liar that I am – that in my mind I totally agree with the call to “love one another” but when real people stand before me, I find a different modus operandi at work.  I find instead of love I have a guardedness, a defensive, distrusting posture, and a critical spirit toward those different from me.  (And really…isn’t everybody different from me???)

Jean Vanier writes, “Community life isn’t simply created by either spontoneity or laws.  It needs a certain discipline and particular forms of nourishment.  Some precise conditions have to be met if this life is to deepen and grow through all the crises, tensions and good times.”

What is this nourishment?  Perhaps it is to fully abandon ourselves to the will of God and to believe that in the Trinity we get an understanding of God-as-Community and an invitation to move into community.   The call then becomes to trust God and walk in ways that He says are part of this communtiy/kingdom life.  Risk, vulnerability, humility, weakness, poor in spirit and even dying are all part of this upsidedown and backwards Kingdom of His.

Now the question becomes, Do I trust Him enough to follow?