Today at Bible study, the question was asked when do you most often hear God. There was a chorus of the usual response of quiet time and prayer. I can honestly say that is not when I generally have the things in my life fit together and click in a way that I know is God speaking to me. I hear God when my mindset is right and it is usually when I am doing something routine and letting my mind go where it wants rather than directing it down the usual avenues of planning or worrying. He speaks in those times when I am focused on the task at hand and on doing what I am doing and not thinking about the next thing. Then my mind has room for Him to bang the thoughts into shape so that all the stuff He has been feeding me comes together. Sometimes he gives me the whole story and sometimes only part but it is always light - light when it clicks on because I let Him flip the switch on what He has been doing.
So what has this to do with community? Only that today, I cleared the drive. It is one of my favorite 'quiet' things to do. Somehow, when I clear the drive, I find myself absorbed in the rhythm of the activity and soon stop traveling down the well-worn paths and find myself wandering. And my mind started collecting some thoughts on community from here and here and here mixed in with other random observations, comments and snippets read that I can't even identify at the moment. (BTW reading the three blog posts I linked to are very worthwhile - take the time - they are good).
And so my mind wandered around thoughts of community - virtual and real. Secular and the church. I thought about my own personal sense of disconnect in the world and how I feel more connected to many people in this virtual land I visit. In part, I know that my feeling of connectedness is because I feel my interests and thought patterns connect more easily with certain people I meet out there than anyone I find around here.
Then I considered the 'old-fashioned' simple community that is lamented by so many in this world and suddenly something clicked. That old fashioned community existed because of a commonality's of life and interests. People generally lived in proximity and in smaller towns and villages compared to the way most people live today. But more importantly, somehow their interests ran in the same direction. And they knew everything about you - who your family was, where you went to school, how well you did in school. I know that today people resent being known in that way but...I am not sure how to say this so that it makes sense but I think the reason local communities feel as if they fail and virtual communities seem to thrive has to do with the individualism of this world.
Could it be that the idea of individualism has so pervaded even the lives of Christians that we feel an overwhelming need to build our community with like-minded 'individuals' rather than with the people who share the same space with us. My virtual friends tend to help me feel that I am not so much an alien as I think I am. But whose fault is that? Did I press too hard for my own 'identity' at the cost of the community that shaped me?
Of course, we move constantly too. I am no longer anywhere close in proximity to the geographical community that nurtured me as a child. But is not that movement of our nation from place to place born from a desire to find something that meets your perceived needs rather than 'blooming' where you are planted? We have no roots because we are rugged individuals too busy to put down roots or grow moss or find out the truth about where we are at...
God hasn't given me the whole story on this one yet and I am not sure I should have written about it so soon - only the click and the subsequent light almost knocked me over. Suddenly that dark corner over there seemed more approachable - the cockroaches scattered and I felt that maybe I understood something.
I believe in internet communities. I really do. I have dear friends who I talk to on the phone with and exchange gifts with. They are real. And you know those who knock this community forget about the letter writers of the past - people who had pen pals - and the habit of many to write letters and journals daily and for substantial amounts of time. It is a new world and this is the place where certain communities are moving too.
Do these communities conflict? No. I don't think so. I think that the local community is essential. I know so - every Sunday when I sing and look around my church and see people whose lives have touched mine - even in small ways. Maybe they don't have an interest in photography, or poetry, or books or such stuff...but they thought to ask about my MIL or they wanted to know about my husband's eye. Or they just visited about the little inconsequentials that make up daily life. I feel like they are my family and that someday - in heaven I will have the time to get to know them all and the image of Christ they show to me and the world.
I think that those of us in this world who connect across large amounts of space, culture, and time have an essential community - one that reminds the world and ourselves that we are all the same in the end - we all have imprinted on us the stamp of our Creator. We need to know people outside of our local community in order to see this and to know this is a small world and that He holds it all in His hands.
This post wanders - it doesn't conclude - much like my life.
Get over it. :)