Saturday, September 8, 2012

Community

Hello friends! My Red and White Rentrée Giveaway is in the post below, and I'm really enjoying reading your comments and resolutions - please keep them coming!

One of my Rentrée Resolutions this year is to make more time for other people, getting actively and consistently involved with friends, groups and wider family , and I wanted to think this one through a bit more in a separate post. Ben and I have historically been fairly sociable – actively involved in every church we attended, making friends and sharing meals at our house, at church and in their homes. We also like to get to know our neighbours (as much as they would like to be known), and have friends and family to visit whenever we can.

Over the last few years I’ve really cut down on social activities and I know why – it was for a good reason. The little ‘falling apart’ that I mentioned here came at a point when I realised I was living largely to convince other people that everything was right in my life, and not so that things could actually BE right. This crept up on me slowly – everyone gets things wrong, everyone tries to put on a good front so that things look OK, but due to problems with the church we went to and the general stress of moving to another country I was going way overboard on trying to present a shallow yet acceptable image.

I needed to take time out for God to rearrange my priorities, and to get me to love my family for who they were, not try to force them into something they weren’t. God did this most gently and most marvellously, and the blogging world also helped me more than I can say – blogs, recommended books and blogging friends were all used as God shone a gentle light on my life and helped me to know myself better.

In the few years since this has been happening, I have drawn in and focused on my family alone. It’s been a valuable focus and one I don’t want to loose, but I knew that this year I would be ready for God to show me something  new, something wider, something to replace the all-consuming passion for spirituality and world justice which I felt I’d lost as I looked inwards. I suppose I rather hoped that this new thing would be quiet, inward-looking and something I could do alone. However, he’s making it clear to me that this isn’t the case – it’s all about other people.

"Without friendships no one would choose to live, even if they had all the other good things in life."
Aristotle
Hmmm…

"Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives."
Henri Nouwen
Sigh…

"If you don’t go to somebody’s funeral, they won’t go to yours."
Yogi Berra
Snort…

Those quotations are from a Christian book called ‘Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them’ by John Ortberg, which has been sitting on my shelves for so long that I honestly have no idea how or when it got there. See how God has been preparing this shift back into community living for me?

So through picking up that book at a time when I’m emotionally prepared for it, and through other things – noting that the boys need practice in greeting new people politely and spending time with new adults, for example – I’m ready to follow where God leads and push out again into a wider circle of people. I am going to try going to a house group at church – this is going to be frustrating in French, as, with the best will in the world, people tend to assume that one’s ability to speak equals one’s level of Christian understanding and faith, and can ‘talk down’ to one quite accidentally (consider this if you have immigrants in any of your churches, please). I’m going to respond more enthusiastically to Ben’s suggestions that we invite people over for meals, and will try to be brave enough to rekindle some friendships that kind of died in my quiet years. Please pray for me.
Linking to Spiritual Sundays... for logical reasons! The flower photos are bouquets the boys gave me on Mother's Day - I've been waiting for a chance to share them since May...

12 comments:

Betty said...

Lots to think about here Floss, I identify with some of the things you are feeling as I too am going through a time of change spiritually. I hope God speaks clearly to you and that you will know where he is leading you. Betty

magsmcc said...

Floss, this post is amazing to me. These lessons are ones that I think I am just embarking on. Community has been one of my "focus words" for this year, and I have been learning fascinating things from God through others; that book I started to read because it is so exactly where my judgementalism lies- but that summer PC got into it first and used it for a sermon! But I love what you say about being emotionally ready to take something on. Thank you for all these inspirational words. I'll be mulling them over for the rest of the weekend. And bon courage for the next chapter in your story! Grace and strength x

Linda said...

I am looking for the lessons...I definitely need to be more involved with people - I have been "accused" of enjoying blogging because I don't have to have real personal contact with people. I pray that is not the reason...but I struggle with my need for privacy and alone time. Thank you for a very thought provoking post.

Hands to Work, Hearts to God said...

I'm part of a community and this is a wonderful gift from our good God because growing up, my family was very insular. As my sisters, my brother and parents were very close, I did not develop strong friendships with my classmates or cousins or neighbors. Although I have close friends now, I need to also, like you, make more time to get to know others better. I plan to invite families to our Saturday Lord's day (like what the Jews do for sabbath, a Christian version). Patsy from
HeARTworks and
papemelroti

FancyHorse said...

That book sounds very interesting! I've often thought that myself, that I tend to like people better when I don't know them well. I idealize them.
This is a very thought-provoking post, thank you.

helen tilston said...

Hello Floss

It has been a while since I visited and glad to see you are well. I love the idea of make resolutions in September and you have a good and reasonable list, I will keep you in my prayers

Helen xx

A garden just outside Venice said...

How lovely to invite people for meals and get to know them better, as well to live in such an international environment.
You made me smile about the language ability you were talking about...I feel the same when I leave my comments on blogs...if they are silly, short or simple, it doesn't mean I haven't understood the post, LOL!
Have a good Sunday!

Kaye Swain said...

Hi Floss - what a sweet treat to spot you at Spiritual Sunday. And what an interesting post. How exciting to hear some of the ways God has been working in your life. :) Have a blessed and beautiful week.

Rosey said...

Such a funny quote about funerals. I love it!
THanks for your comments on my blog.
Nice to stop by here.

Kezzie said...

Hello,
I really like this post. Very important, and I totally understand what you are saying- sometimes you have to focus on your family but then you realise that at times you are ready to get into the community again. I can imagine being talked down to in a different language in a church context must be quite frustrating!

Fat Dormouse said...

I know what you mean about church in French...I'm afraid I have rather given up on church-in-French at the moment. Probably not a good thing, but I wasn't getting anything, and certainly didn't feel I was giving anything. But I will remember you and your family in my (infrequent) prayers. God bless. xx

Vintage Jane said...

A wonderfully honest post. M x