After being actively involved in a Catholic community for about 2.5 years, I sometimes feel like I know community through and through and yet at other times I feel like I know nothing at all.
But what amazes me is how much my life has been changed because of community. Many a times now instead of speaking about the weather or food or work (oh the endless whining about work!), I often catch myself now having full dinner conversations all about God or community. Almost like God, community has been a topic where everybody has an idea or opinion of what it should be and everybody sees it with a perspective of their own experience and expectation.
Below is just one topic that I find discussed quite extensively and an important one especially for those discerning community.
Community is not for everybody
Yes, this is definitely true. But this is also not the important question. The real question is how can community (or the lack of one) help you grow closer to God? Typically when one discerns to leave community (or a conscious decision not to join one), we should reflect on the reason for pull or push factors. If the reason to leave or not join one is a pull factor, that is, you see the good in a community but there is an even greater good that you are attracted to to grow in faith, then YES! go with joy and gratitude!
However, if the reason is a push factor, that is, you perceive something negative in community and it compels you to leave, it could be a bit trickier. On one hand, we cannot discount the fact that some communities or an aspect of it can be particularly toxic to some people. Communities are after all made up of people and people can hurt people. But if one finds himself/herself jumping from community to community or avoiding community in general, then perhaps some self-reflection may prove valuable.
At the same time, when we start loving communities, it is also important not to start treating community as your god. Community is NOT God.
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
There are many dangers of treating community as God.
- Creating unrealistic expectations to conform to YOUR idea of community
- Limiting your growth as a Christian only with the formation / sharing in community
- Scoping your understanding and idea of Christians to only members in your community
- Forgetting that Jesus’ coming was to save everybody – not just the members of your community
It is of course very natural to have a special fondness for people we journey so closely with every week. After all, these are people who we have opened ourselves to, laughed and cried together and treated like family. After weeks, months or even years of learning and risking to trust them, we wish to hold on so tightly to these friendships and safe spaces that we have created. We may feel that we no longer want to open to trust anybody else again.
However, we cannot let this make us forget that our ultimate comforter and trust should be in God. May we always be filled with gratitude and joy for what God has given us, and yet be open to trust where God plans to lead us.