I think, all of my life, I have been longing for community. I think there are some desires that God gives us – because he knows those are things that can shape us for good, and for his glory. And maybe community is one of them.
In kindergarten, I remember asking all of the boys on the playground if they would marry me. I’m not really sure why I thought I should do that. The twenty-eight year old me sarcastically laughs as I remember the story. Some days I feel like that kid on the playground, and like everyone else on the playground is taken or not interested. But – that’s another post for another day.
But – maybe it’s not.
I’ve seen marriage at its worst. Now, in my adult life, I’ve also seen it at its best. Not to be glorified, or put on a pedestal, or made into an idol. I’ve seen the covenant made between two sinner-saints, to love and honor and cherish all the days of their lives. It’s a covenant that I’ve seen broken. One that I have not only seen broken, but one that I’ve watched the breaking happen, and I walked in the cracks and tried to help pick up the pieces of the brokenness. Even twelve years later, it still feels like we’re patching holes sometimes, and adding tape, and trying to heal from what seems like it will never not hurt.
But, I have also seen marriage at its best. And at its best, marriage is a picture of the gospel – in that you are fully known (or perhaps, as known as you might be by another human being) and fully loved, despite being fully known. The person you are married to knows your flaws and deepest fears. They know the sin that lurks so deeply, which you can hide from everyone else. And yet…you are loved. Despite knowing the ugliness and the sin and the depravity, another person has made a covenant with you, to love and to cherish you…even in the face of that brokenness. What a picture of the cross – that in our deepest sin, Christ knows us, and loves us. Despite all the mess, he finds us broken and beautiful.
I think this is what I long for in marriage. I want to have a family, and a home, and kids. Oh, but I also want to be known. It is a hard thing to go throughout the day and come home at night and feel like it’s only ever you inside your head, and to feel like there is no one else. My deepest fear is probably living in a world where I am alone. Where I am known only on the surface, and spoken to in passing, and left to sit in the silence at a house where I wish to hear the sound of kids playing and water running in the bathtub and the screams of a child who just stubbed his toe.
And this, this, is the beauty of Christian community. You see, while all of my life, maybe I thought I was looking for marriage (even from the playground days!)…but really, I think I have been looking for community. I even think that maybe God creates us for community. After all we see community displayed in the Trinity – the loving, giving eternality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And so, Birmingham will always be many things. But to me, when I think back on this city and this time, I will think about community. About being known and being loved. You see, to be known is one thing. To be known and loved is a much deeper thing. In these years (especially the last two years), I have begun to understand what it means to be known and to be loved, despite the knowing. To be honest and transparent with people who care for you deeply. To show them the hard and broken places. To confess sin – and call it sin – and have a dear friend push you back to the cross. To have people who know my story and know the hurt and feel the pain – but who also can point me forward to the day coming when there will be no more pain, because my story is only a tiny part of a much larger Story.
And this is where I have to preach – if there’s room for me to do that – and to say that community is important for single people for this reason, and it’s important for married people. Married friends – let your single friends into your lives. Let them see the chaos and beauty and pandemonium of trying to put a toddler in bed while cleaning the kitchen, finishing the laundry, and packing lunches. And single friends – have friends who are single and who are married. Who are older than you and younger than you. I think we learn so much from each other when we are in different stages of life. And I think it helps tame the monster of envy when we see the gift of marriage (or singleness) and are able to see the hard parts alongside the good ones. For some married people, singleness might seem like a position you could envy (because no one ever talks about the nights they binge-watched Netflix on their couch by themselves, feeling totally alone). We learn from each other. We preach the gospel to one another in all kinds of ways, at all different stages. We all need each other.
And as for me, what I really needed all along was community. It took me a while to figure that out. (Although, if there was ever a boy who loved Jesus and theology and Harry Potter and the Avett Brothers, I wouldn’t say no to the marital type of community either. But yet again, that’s another blog post for another day…).