I’ve visited lots of places, but I’ve never lived in Paris or London. I’ve walked through the Louvre and through the British Museum, but I’ve have not made either city my home.
I’ve been to Washington DC, and in fact, besides Los Angeles which is in my back yard, DC might be the city in the U.S. that I’ve visited most frequently. But I have never lived in the city. The Library of Congress: love it. Georgetown Cupcakes: to die for but get there early. Tourist attractions by the armload in all different seasons: in February it was too cold to walk on the Mall and in July it was too humid to walk in the same place. I’ve been to DC. But even so, I’ve never made it my home.
They say that until you live in a city for 2 years or 4 years or more you don’t really KNOW it. You can’t really get to know the people, the good and the bad restaurants, the vibe, or the essence of a place until you’ve walked in, set down your luggage, and unpacked it. Instead of bringing your reading material from home, you get a local library card. Instead of dropping by the take out place for dinner, you buy ingredients to make a meal. Instead of seeing only the museums and cathedrals, you visit the parks, the Tuesday night summer festivals and the concerts-on-the-green. You live like a local.
We can’t really experience a place until we do a couple things: intend to stay and then actually stay.
We’ve been talking this month on (in)courage about what it means to be a part of a community, what it means to be engulfed by sisters and what it looks like to have friends. There has been both pain and joy with friendships, and we’ve all certainly had different experiences in Christian communities like churches and in public communities like schools and neighborhoods. On the surface the idea of community seems easy, like making friends in Kindergarten. But we all know that really feeling a part of a community is something hard-won. Nothing about it is simple.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
And I would argue, “a time to go and a time to stay put.” A time to stay awhile. A time to dig in. A time to set down your suitcase and unpack your favorite chotchkies.
We aren’t always meant to stick through a hard thing. That was the biggest issue for me when we decided to change churches over 18 months ago. “Do I dig in and stay through this difficult thing even though I’m dying inside? Or is God telling us it’s time to leave? We have ‘stayed put’ for 12 years; maybe it’s time to turn the page.”
After much prayer and heartache, we decided that it was time to go.
But sometimes we are supposed to stay. If we want to experience real community, we have to make both an intention to stay put and then actually do it.
Joining a new church or a new community is like moving to a new city: At first everything is foreign, everything is strange and nothing feels like home. But after awhile, after a year or two, things begin to become normal. We know what time the bus passes the corner, we know what day the trash trucks rumble down the street at 5 AM and we know whose face it is that will greet us at our new favorite restaurant.
We often leave at the first sign of discomfort or loneliness. We say, but no one knows me! No one understands me! I feel so alone.
What I’m learning about community is that in order to experience it in the way that I believe we were created to, part of it is simply staying awhile. The only way to really become known, to become “with”, and to become understood is to stay put and moving into the neighborhood.
By Sarah Markley who is working on the concept of kicking off her shoes and staying awhile.
Do you have trouble staying put? Have you found that some of community is just being there for awhile? What is the hardest/easiest things about a new neighborhood or a new community?
GIVEAWAY: And speaking about community – we have a huge (in)RL giveaway – 100 freebies! – that kicks off today – click here for how to enter.