Ugly Community

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.

Cold Feet

My feet are cold. I have cold feet. Even in the balmy tropics of Auckland’s North Shore, my tootsies still get the chills. It’s a tribulation I have experienced all throughout my life and I’m guessing it’s never going to go away, but it’s still a disappointing reality of my everyday life.

In comparison with some of the world’s troubles it’s a very minor issue, but I’m sure I have some fellow sufferers out there who understand the distraction of icy extremities.

On another note, it’s been three and a half years since I departed the privileged position of working in the Youth Department for The Salvation Army. Many of you young ‘uns out there won’t remember life before the “Apparently” kid on Ellen, but “apparently”, I worked in the Youth Department for a whole lotta time. And it was fun. And it was hard work. But it was fun. And when I was given my marching orders (as Salvation Army officers tend to get from time to time) and told to relocate to Auckland, I got cold feet. Well actually, my feet were probably colder when I lived in Wellington, but I got a bit freaked out. That kinda cold feet.

You see, for a long time I’d lived and worked in a very familiar and enjoyable bubble. And suddenly The Salvation Army or God (not sure which one – that’s another blog topic!) were asking me to pick up and pack up my nice familiar life and go live somewhere and do something that I’d never done before. Did I do it? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Has it been ok? Yes!
And so it feels a bit surreal writing a blog for Firezone, because my life looks so completely different to the last time I wrote a blog for Firezone. But it’s cool. Not chilly cool, but cool cool. It reminds me that God is much bigger than my fears and my cold feet, and that if I continue to trust Him, He has everything in hand. He really does, it’s amazing.

Now, where are my slippers?