In two short weeks from yesterday, my time here in Colorado with the most wonderful group of individuals will draw to an end. As I reflect on living the past three months within this community, I cannot help but defer to the wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1954) in his book "Life Together," which we read in the beginning of the semester. Bonhoeffer offers sagacious advice for those living in community, based on his underground fellowship experience while living in Nazi Germany. During my time here, there have been aspects of his wisdom we adhered to; others we did not. Nevertheless, the fellowship I have experienced is unlike any of which I have otherwise been a part.
The very first weekend, during our retreat at Horn Creek, we began to form a bond that set the tone for the entire semester. We acted as if we had known each other longer and accepted one another from the get-go. By the time the weekend was over, we had already somewhat established our roles in the group. Between the 44 of us, we knew that Whitney and Matt were among the leaders, Cody and Matthew the musicians, amidst other dynamics within our life groups. As Bonhoeffer said:
"It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak."
Given our time spent with one another, in addition to learning each others' strengths and personality types via assessments, I would now say that we each play a specific role within the life of our community. For example, if you have any questions about politics, talk to Sarah. If you need an encourager, find Hannah. And if you wish to glean insights from someone that you don't often here from, inquire of Anne Marie.
The acceptance of each other among our group has been a breath of fresh air. Moreover, never have I so well gotten along with and grown to love an entire group of 44 peers as I have this semester. And note that it is not because I have found a group of people who are nearly perfect. It is because if you and I are called to love one another, dwelling on frivolous grievances is no way to go about keeping that command. I have learned this semester that any problem I have with another person is absolutely and solely my problem. I have a responsibility to God for my attitude and my heart towards another person. We all do. Selfishness never justifies relinquishing the greatest commandment.
As in all community, when living daily with imperfect people, there have been moments of disconnectedness, conflict, and miscommunication. Within our apartments, to more or less extremes, we have all by now discovered the different norms we possess. Within our life groups, we have had frustration between members. And I think it is safe to say that each of us have had moments of insecurity, fear of vulnerability, or at the very least, concern with what another was thinking. Notwithstanding these realities, I have been blessed with incredible apartment mates and an awesome life group. The relational tests for me personally have been minor during this season of my life, for which I am very thankful. Even so, I have been amazed to watch the confession and forgiveness of those around me who have experienced greater difficulties. Although Satan would have loved to have used such difficulties for his schemes, the Lord has used them instead as opportunities for growth. And we are all the better for it.
"Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God's grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren."
My classmates and I have truly experienced life together. All 44 of us have attended the same classes everyday this semester, we have eaten lunch and dinner at least twice a week together, and we have shared our homes daily with one another. Even amidst our 4500 pages of required reading this semester, we have made time to have fun and play together. (In fact, these times were our motivating factors to get our reading done!) These people have asked me the hard questions and they have challenged me with insights from differing walks of life. And I hope I, them. They have encouraged me and made me laugh more than I had in a long time. They have helped me and sacrificed their time when, for example, our apartment caught on fire... I could go on and on, but I will conclude by saying I am truly thankful for each person with whom I have spent this semester, and will dearly miss each and every one.
- Two things have I heard.
- I always seem to have a plan. And after a brief moment--when measured against the timeline of one's life--He gracefully and graciously ruins my plan of the hour, whatever it may be, in lieu of a greater one. This has occurred in my life without fail. In light of recent circumstances, a reverberation of His love, strength, and faithfulness has echoed in my spirit. As David said, "one thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving." Psalm 62:11-12