Monday, September 12, 2011

Community and Love

So lets talk some more about my failures.

It is a hard thing to move to a new culture. I think everybody kind of knows that, to some degree or other. Some know it from experience, and everybody else knows because the people that know from experience proclaim it with wide eyes and won't let the others forget it.

There is a whole gaggle of reasons why moving cross-culturally is difficult, but I think it ultimately boils down to this: it is loss of community. All the customs and language and food and “common sense” that are foreign to you are roadblocks to community.

It was hard moving here basically straight from college, where I had the deepest and widest Christian community I have ever had, to a whole new community where nothing comes easy. Granted there is a foreign community here as well, but starting from scratch anywhere isn't necessarily fun. And it takes time.

Like many things in my time here, my community has grown over time, initially slowly but picking up speed the longer I have been here. I was warmly welcomed here by the Joneses and Whitneys and my first months here would have been much much harder without them (I am forever in their debt, and to me, they are my china family), but after a couple weeks I craved to know more people, particularly those at a similar stage of life. I scrounged for community, looking for relationships everywhere, accepting any invitations to anything—and after a while I found it. I found friends, I found people to worship God with, I found people to show God to, and I found pretty much everything I needed to be satisfied.

Which is pretty much the problem. I have spent waaaay too much time thinking about myself. As I said in my last post, I think real love is based upon focusing on others and not yourself. You can do a whole lot of things that look like love, and in some ways imitate it, but in reality its not agape love. It is ego centric self serving love. Though I have spent much of my time here thinking, “How can I build community? How can I encourage community?” I haven't been seeking to love others for the sake of loving God. I have been seeking to love others for the sake of loving myself. I want community because it was a way to fill the void, a way to find closeness and intimacy and support and love. Instead of relying on the ocean of God's love, I idolized community instead.

And community that is built through idolatry is never stable. You don't actually end up forming a loving community, at least not a whole one. When loving others is an expression of your selfishness, you end up with fragmented unhealthy community. When loving others is an expression of Christ's love working itself out of you, when it is based upon God's love for you and your love for Him, when at the center of it all is the complete self-denial found in the love of Christ-- then the Church really can be whole and healthy and united. May God give me grace as I learn what it means to really love.

~J.L. Smith

1 comment:

  1. This post struck a chord in my soul. And seems to be a hot topic lately. What does loving others to the point of giving up yourself look like? How does loving others with God's pure love and because He loves me I love others demonstrate itself in my life? How can I proactively do this? And do it well?

    Anything made into an idol only is being set up for ruin. And yet, my heart still does that to things that I love and am supposed to love, but not idolize.

    Hm... thanks for writing and sharing.