My husband just finished seminary, and his first call involved a move. As we looked at different neighborhoods, he said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could live near the Drakes? Then we could just walk across the street to see each other.” I remember thinking, “That’s crazy! You don’t buy a house next to someone you hardly know. What if you get on each other’s nerves? Living that close to someone would be too hard.” So the matter died.
Fast forward four years, add a move to a new city, and we built a house next to the Drake’s. Fast forward another three years, and again we bought houses eight months apart in a new city right next door to each other. Before you dismiss us as crazy, or think we are some sort of cult, I have to explain how God used our friendship to teach me about community.
I grew up feeling isolated. Friends were usually held at arms length, and I didn’t know what real community looked like. As a pastor’s wife, I didn’t want to be needy. I had Jesus, I didn’t need friends. I preferred relationships where I could be Paul to a Timothy. I didn’t really look for people who could encourage me….and consequently, I often felt alone and disconnected.
When we first moved next to the Drakes, I was skeptical. I was guarded. I couldn’t imagine that it would end well—and I was wrong! Living life deeply together destroyed my masks. I couldn’t hide anymore, they were too close. They saw me as I really was, warts and all.
It was more than being able to run to the grocery without getting a babysitter. In Jaye, I found someone with whom I could be real, who I didn’t have to be something I wasn’t in order to please. In short, I found someone who loved me. With her, I don’t have to replay events or worry what she is thinking. Jaye is my Barnabas. Being her friend makes me better. My husband’s friendship with Kyle is the same. Our families combined have 8 kids, ranging in age from 3-16. We regularly have meals together, carpool together, and pray for each other. It is a community that I treasure… and one I have been blessed to a part of for 9 years.
I share all of that because we spent all last month talking about community. I think true community can be elusive in our day and time. People are so busy! Time to invest in relationships can be hard to find, and I’ll confess that even when you live next door to your best friends, you have to fight for time together. As kids have grown and activities have increased, it’s easy for a week to go by without seeing my friend. The 20 steps between our doors can seem farther because we have so much to do. Our commitment has been tested but we are both determined.
Do you know you need community? Do you have those in your life that encourage you? I think it can be even harder when you are in the leadership of a church. In some communities, pastors, elders, and deacons are looked at differently. It can be easy to feel isolated, or you can be so busy pouring yourself into others that you don’t have time for relationships that pour into you. Finding authentic community can be difficult, but I encourage you that it is worth the effort. You need people in your life who pour into you too! Be intentional. Pursue relationships with those who don’t need you, and be brave enough to model true community for those in your church.
I also want to direct you to the community we are trying to build through Reimagine.Our Facebook page is a great place to connect with others like you. You don’t have to be next door to someone to be in community… technology can bring us together in a whole new way!
by Cami Summers
Cami is our Coaching Specialist. She has a passion for equipping churches with the message of generosity and experience with the diverse churches we serve.