>I went back to college this weekend. Okay, so maybe not exactly…I just went to parts of Homecoming at Ouachita Baptist University. Doug and I had browsed campus once about seven years ago, but this was our first time to be back for Homecoming. It was fun, but it also renewed some thoughts I’ve had in recent months about friendship and community. As we wandered around campus seeing what had changed and what was the same, talking to a few old friends, and chatting with some professors we had known, I began to felt some nostalgia. I began trying to identify it because I couldn’t imagine ever wishing to go back in time and relive the college experience again. I’m not like that. It’s not that college was a horrible experience – in fact, it was a good one overall, despite the challenges. It’s just that I like my life now. I wouldn’t give up what God is doing in my family right now just to get a few college memories back. What I realized I was missing, though, was the community.
In college and later in seminary housing there existed something that doesn’t exist in very many places in the United States these days. It’s a commonality among the residents. It’s a community where even if you don’t know everyone, you are all in the same boat. You’re all going to classes, living in student housing, and wondering if the next phase of life will really pan out the way you plan or hope for it to. Despite the different backgrounds, personalities, and interests, everyone has a common ground. Does that mean everyone likes everyone else? Not hardly! But, there is still something unifying about being there together.
There is a verse that comes to my mind as I think of this unity. It’s Heb 3:13
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. You see, it was easy for us on the college campus or in seminary housing to encourage one another daily because we were together daily! Whether or not we actually did it was another story, but it was not hard to do if we put our minds to it!
And that brings me to another thought. You see, the early church was instructed to do this, but the early church really did live together! If you read in Acts, you learn how they shared everything they had to meet the needs of one another. They were in the habit of meeting daily to worship and pray. They seemed to really like spending time together!
Once upon a time, we were like that, too. I grew up on a missionary compound in Jordan. My parents didn’t have to worry about us because we knew everyone who lived there. But, it wasn’t very different from the old-fashioned American community. There was a time when you worked, worshiped, and played with the same people you lived near. Now we’re lucky if we even know our neighbors, much less actually interact with them on a regular basis!
Then there’s the church. We seem to have become Sunday and Wednesday friends, hardly ever interacting between church services. We may truly and greatly love the people we go to church with, but do we really interact with them? Are they in our homes? Are we in theirs? Do our children feel comfortable with them? Do we run over to their house to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar? Do we call them on a daily basis just to share something funny a kid or a pet did? Are we a true interacting family, or are we a reunion-only family?
God made us for community. I think that’s why I occasionally long to return to the college campus or seminary housing. My friends are no longer in either place, so there’s really nothing to go back to. But, I still long for it sometimes. And, in the meantime, I’m praying for our churches. I’m praying that somehow we rediscover what it means to truly be a community – a family.