Monday, May 14, 2012

Living in Community Can Be Messy


This week I had a tough conversation with some good friends. It was tough because we were hashing over a previous conversation wherein I communicated something differently than I'd intended. Something that came out of love sounded angry and stinging. I wish I could go back and rewind and say things differently but I can't. I have felt very sad these past few days because of it, and have become fearful to communicate anything because I am afraid I will say things wrong again.

I could dwell in this place of fear and shame but I am going to choose not to. I am going to ask the Lord to heal me--and them--so that we can move forward. I am going to choose to go deeper with these friends even though my first instinct is to throw in the towel.

When Greg and I were first married we began to seek out those around us who wanted to live close together and share what we had in common. We imagined people dropping in at any time and eating many unplanned meals together. We were and still are a part of a group that aims to be like the people in Acts 2:42. At times we read farther than verse 42 and get excited about what we may possibly be someday.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
The Fellowship of the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Those first years of our marriage I really struggled with those around me. Why didn’t they want to be together all the time? Why didn’t they drop everything to help? How come we were all living separately and not giving of ourselves to help those who were struggling? Why didn’t everyone have an open door policy?

The more I tried to live in community the more frustrated I became. At times I would become very angry and discouraged. I began to seek the Lord to ask Him what I could do to help create this unity that I sought. One summer morning while sitting on our back patio with friends I began to talk out loud about my frustrations and my confusion. Why did people think they deserved things they really did not deserve? In this, I began to talk about the expectations I had of my friends. I didn’t want to have expectations but somehow they were there, and the friends around me continued not to meet them. I wondered if I should lower my expectations but realized that wasn’t going to solve the problem and would be just as disappointing.

That morning we began to talk about the difference between expectations of people and hopes for people. I realized that if I expected something of someone then I was creating a line that they may or may not live up to. Inevitably, people would not reach the bar that I had set. Rather, if I had hopes for someone, this gave those around me the ability to grow into what I hoped for them. It opened my heart to forgiveness and love and changed me so that I no longer believed people have to be a certain way but that both of us could grow into a closer relationship. 

This began to change my beliefs and the community around me began to change. I still struggle with expectations and hopes. Sometimes I think I have hopes and they are really just expectations. I know though that if I can focus on His Hope the community around me will became more attractive and the hopes will begin to look more like Jesus’ rather than the expectations that look like me. I also know that I will fail again and again people and the Lord will need to forgive me, and I them.




I agree there is such a fine line between hope and expectations. Hope is so delicate and painful at times and takes such tremendous grace.

Lord, help us to bestow your grace unto others. Thank you for giving us what we don't deserve.



  1. This conversation really touched me. I have similar problems with expectations with my friends and I believe that possibly it has added to the destruction of one of those close friendships. I pray that God will help heal that break and restore that bond or even just simple communication. One thing God has blessed me with is my ability to forgive and not hold grudges and that has allowed me to heal broken bonds with my parents, my siblings, and even my husband. Close relationships with are fellow Christians can help strengthen our bond with Christ. Thank you Lord for creating the desire for community as it brings glory to you.

    1. Amen! Its tough stuff. I'm glad we have Jesus to help us stick it out and work through it. We'll all be better for it!