- Written by Rebecca Howan
A few weeks ago, I was at the rehearsal camp for Spiritsong, The Salvation Army’s national choir. It was such a wonderful weekend, with lots of laughter, joy, and encouragement, as well as challenge and hard but profound conversations. There was a really beautiful sense of family and community, and I walked away feeling incredibly blessed and knowing that those people had been so good for my soul.
During that weekend when things were great, community was a really easy thing to be a part of though. I thrive around people so I can be a real talker when it comes to this kind of thing - “Yeah I’m all about community! I love people! Community is a beautiful thing to behold!” Throw in some buzz words about vulnerability and authenticity and we’re good to go.
But what about when things kind of suck?
Yes, community can be all laughs, but it can also hurt like heck. Spiritsong was great, but it’s not always a bed of roses.
My work environment is a different kind of community that I am also a part of, and this week I have honestly found it a bit of a struggle to have this same joyful community that I experienced at Spiritsong. For a whole range of reasons, people have been frustrated, annoyed, upset, and angry. But part of our calling in community is to deal with conflicts graciously, and certainly not only look out for ourselves. I've learned this week that sometimes this means taking time to understand the bigger picture for people’s situations, and recognise that perhaps they might be having a bad day or they’re stressed about a family situation or any number of things. These strong reactive feelings, which in turn can hurt and offend others, could simply be because they’ve had the last straw in a long line of offences against them. Understanding this means that I shouldn’t then reciprocate their feelings and get annoyed at them back, but instead hear them out and help them out. Community is sometimes about being empathetic even when you’re hurt too. That’s the ugly side.
Because what’s a community without grace, mercy and forgiveness? And it should absolutely embody these things, which are found perfectly in Jesus, because community comes from God in the first place. We are made for community, to love and to be loved, because we are made in the image of God, who is love and who has been in community since the beginning of time within the trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God is the ultimate community-maker, and so we look to Him to show us what this looks like and how we can live it. But just don’t expect it to be beautiful all the time - it will get ugly.