Last weekend I was at a conference with about 100 people. I didn't know anyone. I'm a weirdo compared to most in that I love situations where I don't know anyone and I get to have a lot of "Hi, what's your name, etc..." conversations.
On the plane ride back from Indianapolis to San Diego I had an interesting realization that if our life is a storyline then when we meet people for the first time they only experience our story from that initial meeting point onwards. That means that if we only ever met new people every day then nobody would know us for who we've been, where we've come from, and what growth we have gone through to get to where we are now.
For some people, this could be desirable. Think about it this way. We have an innate desire to present our best, most curated selves to the world. The way we Instagram - sharing filtered, cropped, and well-timed posts shows that we want people to see the best highlights from our lives. We don't like sharing the mundane, painful, or broken parts with the world. The problem is that if we only shared the highlights then we would be missing out on our primal need to know and be known by others.
Sometimes a temptation, especially for emerging adults, is to flee. We mask this by saying we want to have a season of "going and traveling" (travel is great, not knocking it, stay with me) to find themselves. That's great except that it provides an escape route from the valley. You don't find yourself by fleeing intimacy and community with others. I've said a few times on this blog that we spend our lives in the valley and lust for the glory of the mountaintop. In the valley is where we sit with community. Where we come to a table. Where we grow. Where we are refined. Where we do the difficult but worthy work of reconciliation and peacemaking locally and globally.
Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
One of my favorite analogies for community is the rock tumbler. With a rock tumbler you place a few rocks in a slowly spinning tumbler that eventually makes the rocks bounce off of each other, slowly chipping the crusty and hardened edges off of each other. After a while the rocks are taken out and have been smoothed out, barely resembling the roughness that they entered with.
Sometimes we let the memory of where we've been, or who we've been, make us feel unworthy of sticking it out in the tumbler of community.
Follow up questions: what kind of community do you live in? What does your community do that helps refine and shape one another?