I love having a yard that actually has grass. My first yard looked like a adolescent’s facial hair: splotchy grass pieces here and there and ant hills like acne. It looked pretty bad on a good day. Then when we moved to West Virginia, our lawn was nice. People said so. A number of people. I was proud, of what I had not done.
But over time, it was revealed to me, and I kind of came to the conclusion as well, the previous owners must have had a lawn service. There had to be some sort of “hidden” work to keep it looking nice. So, while it stayed green, it didn’t look as good in our third year as it did in our first. Something was missing.
Today I think my yard looks pretty darn good, though I admit my neighbor does edge it. After a few months where I couldn’t control the chinch bugs, I finally caved and got a yard service. Eventually those dead spots didn’t stay dead for all that long.
While I love having a good looking yard, I really do hate actually keeping it up. I hate mowing. And weed-eating afterwards? Brutal. And I hate having to fix the sprinkler head that gets knocked over at least once a month it. I hate yard work because 9 times out of 12 it is too stinking hot to enjoy.
It takes work to keep up a good yard. The final product is nice, but is it really worth the work? I can’t pay someone to cut the grass because that is one of the few things I CAN actually do.
I think most of us, including me, think of community like a good yard. You enjoy seeing it, without realizing that there is a lot of time/resources/effort which have to continue to go into it. I like the idea of it, until I have to actually work at it. Sometimes talking, listening, bearing, sharing, can be like mowing on a hot day. Or maybe it’s a hard conversation, or maybe it’s bearing with someone’s bad stories, unrecognized insensitivity, different background or baggage. Fellowship can be quite an inconvenience when I have an agenda from which you are keeping me.
Real community is created by Jesus but it must be kept up by fallible people who committed to Him and to each other. In other words, real community doesn’t just happen. It takes work. Sometimes that feels like mowing on a hot day in August. Other times, it’s not so hard. The good news is that Jesus does care about His community more than we do, so He is at work convicting people to keep moving toward Him and them.
When you are enjoying the community you have at your church or community group or perhaps a group of friends scattered but connected by participation in the gospel, remember that it took work to get there. It didn’t just happen. And it doesn’t just continue to happen. When you aren’t enjoying the community, remember it will take work to get it back there.
If it doesn’t feel as close as you’d like it, remember it takes time. Some “yards” are bigger than others. But unlike the yard, you can’t pay anyone to do it for you. Fortunately Someone already paid for the lawn treatment service, we’re just called to keep mowing. Even in, and especially in, when it’s hot.