The post below was written by Jer McKoy, a partner and community group leader at Awaken.
There is something to be said for being alone. Something, but not much. For what’s the point of saying much when there’s no one around to hear?
As an introvert, I feel an innate claim to time alone - not a right, per se, but certainly solitude is something God would want for a person for whom loud and crowded spaces prove enjoyable, but quite draining. This is what I always told myself, and felt quite justified in the belief. In fact, a childhood hero of mine was The Lone Ranger (the presence of Tanto, of course, belied my exaltation of his complete independence).
Yet, after moving to a beachside paradise fresh out of college, the flip-side of solitude’s coin brought full-force a new perspective. After two decades of confidence in the reasonable need for time alone, a sense of loneliness came unexpectedly to bear.
It was at this time, when one would expect a young person to be most happy, that I felt most miserable. Surely something was wrong: my job was amazing, I was surrounded by beauty and quite happy in so many ways. But not actually happy.
I was missing something.
No, it wasn’t God - not, at least, in the complete sense. But I was missing something that God desires.
Without fully knowing what that meant, I started praying for God to help me. Help me what? I didn’t really know. I just knew something was off.
True to form, while I attended church one day, an excited and cheerful man came up to me, introduced himself as Teddy, and invited me to a Bible study later that week. Caught somewhat off-guard, but realizing this may be a key to what was missing, I enthusiastically agreed.
From this, my understanding of community began to take form.
Weekly meetings turned into multiple times per week, and I eventually moved in with a group of men from the study with whom I worked, forming a bachelor pad bound by mutual desire for spiritual growth and Christian discipleship. I was delighted!
At the same time, God moved in another way, by bringing a woman into my life right when I would least have expected. Indeed, my excitement at the prospect of a romantic interest clashed quite comically with continued focus on growing in relationship and community with those men (as more than one roommate can attest - I was a confounded mess).
As time went on, I moved into a new living situation, again with Godly men, and my relationship with the woman I eventually married continued to evolve. I began seeking to bring others into a way of living that I realized now was the basis for Hebrews 10:24-25:
“And let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as the day draws near.” (ESV)
Meeting together, in the time of the early church, was not Sunday morning in a dedicated building. Meeting together was every day and in each other’s homes, offering hospitality and sacrificing conveniences for each other for the joy of the Lord. Giving to those who had not and kindly receiving from those with abundance, all in the name of Christ, from whom all blessings flow.
Kind of makes The Lone Ranger seem a bit dull, doesn’t it?
I sure thought so. In fact, as the years progressed and I married the incredible woman God brought in when first showing this all to me, the yearn for community only grew stronger and stronger, aided by her desire for the same.
Sure, many couples want to host others after first being married. In the US, at least, you often have some cool dish ware or kitchen technology to show off - besides, isn’t that what married people do? Have really cool dinner parties and engage in exciting or intellectual debate?
Perhaps for some. And it’s quite all right, to be sure. But why?
Why model life on a situational comedy, ironic and hilarious though it might be, when the great wealth of impact carried by the gospel lies right beneath the surface? Indeed, for those who scoffed at my initial desire for solitude, this may present a challenge.
Why do we spend time with others?
As a Christian, the author of Hebrews leaves little room for dallying. Granted, not every interaction need end in raised hands and softly spoken prayers (though I highly doubt God would protest). In fact, there’s much to be said for time with others not exclusively focused on Christ, thus magnifying our wonder at how we were designed for community with others.
This is now my firm belief: as much as fulfilling the Great Commission and engaging in discipleship, those who love Christ should seek out and spend time with others who feel the same. When I was alone, I now realize, the sense of exhaustion I felt was a lack of the encouragement found in being built up by the body of believers.
How much more now should we seek it out than those who first believed! When our daily interactions can be limited to the incessant tapping of touch-sensitive glass - how can we, The Church, carry Christ to others?
It’s through community.
And so we agreed, between my wife and I, to always have an open door policy. You’re welcome to dinner any night. Please! Stop on by. We love to cook, and the presence of other believers is a welcome change from the daily grind. We mean it, and encourage you to try as well.
Now is a great time to start. The Lone Ranger may have an epic musical score, but time with others is vastly more enjoyable than galloping along the desert. Besides, even The Lone Ranger had Tanto - who is your community? Are you engaged in it or just sitting idly by?