life in community (or, unknown unknowns and practice makes perfect)

spring flowers

Ladies and gentlemen, spring has sprung! After the coldest March since 1968 or something ridiculous, it’s finally starting to feel civilised again. I’m sitting here munching on a Lindt bunny (delicious although, what the heck is Lindt gold bunny day?) and looking out my window at our crocuses. They are probably the latest crocuses ever to bloom, but I shan’t complain, as they are also the first that we’ve ever planted as a household and we thought they might well die from poor weather/planting timing and human ignorance. But here they are, poking their dopey little heads out at the world.

In keeping with the shift in season, today I’ve decided to tell you about some of the rhythms that we have as a household. Here we are, four single girls living away from our parents, all twentysomethings with jobs, all with various hopes and dreams for changing the world and various brokennesses that hold us back.

I think that, as a well-educated, smart twentysomething, it can be quite easy to want to rush out and Change the World. We’ve been fed the line, by school or by ambitious parenting, that if we work hard we can really achieve anything we want. The problem is, this is a highly individualised line, that does not include serving other people and their dreams, being family to one another, and sometimes just stopping and being without needing to do things for some productive purpose. But all these are inbuilt needs, and if we don’t devote some part of our lives to cultivating them, we will burn out.

Plus, most of us have never had to “be family” intentionally; it was just handed to us on a plate by our parents or by spending lots of time at school, so why would it even be on our radars, and how would we know how to do it? It falls into the dark category of unknown unknowns, things we might miss without even realising.

So being aware of this, and considering that practice makes perfect, my housemates and I committed two years ago to living in community; that is, we chose to live in a way that commits us to one another as a family, though we are neither blood-related nor married to each other. We eat together five times a week, have people over together (“your friends are my friends”), have communal rhythms of being thankful and prayerful, go on holidays together twice a year, and share money for food, rent and bills.

children reading together

(My younger sister is doing a similar thing with her community house in Oxford, and they have a rhythm of all getting together to listen to one of their housemates read from Lord of the Rings every evening. Awesome.)

Obviously, that is quite a lot to unpack, which is why there shall be future blog posts 😛 but for today, here are two reflections on living in community:

1. Intentionality. Community doesn’t happen unless we make it happen. This is not Friends where people are perpetually just hangin’, not if we are gainfully employed. What days are we going to eat together, and at what time? Which week can we book off in June for holidaying together in? The more time scarce we are, the more intentional we have had to be. Hence, a magic whiteboard of timetabled-ness and a magic house admin time (Sunday 5.30pm) every week.

house rhythms

2. Disillusionment. I don’t mean being all cynical and distrustful, but rather that living in community takes a healthy dose of realism, of starting where we are at, and remembering that we are all recipients of grace.

“He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial […] the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Obviously, this kind of a lifestyle isn’t for everyone; different people have different commitments, lifestages etc. But I wonder how different the world would look if we each translated some of these values — of doing life together intentionally, with lots of grace — into our varied contexts?

(Photo of two children from here, with thanks.)

6 thoughts on “life in community (or, unknown unknowns and practice makes perfect)

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