Like your first taste of a new favorite ice cream . . .
. . or trying on what you know will be your favorite shoes . . .
. . or hearing the first chorus of the song you know you’ll never want to get out of your head . . .
. . or the high at the end of your first good run . . .
you didn’t know how much you needed it, how much you craved it, until you tried it.
That was how I experienced my first real taste of community. And I’ve thirsted for it ever since.
I was a freshman in college and for the first time in my life, I saw potential for more than just a handful of relationships.
I had a few treasured friends in high school, women who I love still today. But college was where community became a reality and even though I didn’t know exactly what it was, I knew I needed it.
I lived in the Mark Twain res hall, on the fifth floor, and I was in the Journalism Honors Freshman Interest Group. FIG, for short. So we had a few things in common: overachievers, aspiring communicators, high school newspaper nerds. And these people were my first taste of community. Today, one fellow FIGlet remains one of my dearest friends.
What mattered was togetherness, doing life together, experiencing the new-ness of college with other people. This sweet FIG gave me my first positive experience in community. Furthermore, it gave me the courage to seek out more.
The next community I found was a little ragtag. And I’m a little ragtag myself (I was an insecure, snack-sized freshman who spoke way too fast) and I found a home. Through God’s grace, that home was a campus ministry called RUF (Reformed University Fellowship). Every one of them was loveably off-beat and every one of them was awesome.
I found a small group leader who would walk with me from Mark Twain to RUF events and girls who would pray with me — for me! — and it was God like I hadn’t experienced Him before. It was people who said hello, people who asked me to eat with them in the dining hall. People who cared about my stories, and shared their stories with me.
I started to bring other friends too, because this was a secret I just couldn’t keep to myself. I invited friends from my sorority, friends from my dorm, friends from class.
Our campus minister — who later married me and Mr. S., and that’s a beautiful story for another post — loved to use the phrase bringing worlds together. That’s community. Worlds brought together, patches woven and stitched together into a quilt far bigger and far better than the patches themselves.
With the exception of my sister, and Mr. S.’s brother, every member of our bridal party was from RUF. That’s a testament to lasting community.
One of the greatest treasures of RUF, though, was that it wasn’t my only community. That community gave me courage to stretch out and reach out and build relationships all over campus. I found connection in so many places . . . through campus organizations, through Greek Life, through classes . . . every community a treasure in its own unique way.
Part of the beauty of community is seeing each community fit together like puzzle pieces into a bigger picture. It’s a beauty I still experience today, as I find community in cities all over the country and in crazy-amazing ways.
If you’ve ever been to little kid Sunday School, you know the sweet melody of He’s Got the Whole World. That’s what it means to be in community: He’s got the whole world in His hands. And, in His grace, we get to know those in His world. That’s why it matters.
Community is connection, living life together, taking on each other’s burdens. Community gained meaning when others first reached out to me. And I grasped it fully when I got to reach out to others. I grasp it when I make baked macaroni and cheese for a tearful friend. I grasp it when that same friend buys me a cocktail because I’m the tearful one and she just listens and tells me hard truth. I grasp it when friends travel across time zones for me, and I for them. I grasp it when I get a sweet “Hang in there” text from a friend thinking of me. I grasp it when I share a slice of birthday cake, and a slice of a random Thursday cake. I grasp it every time Mr. S. and I invite people to our home. I grasp it in every hug. (I grasp it even when a friend calls to tell me that there’s a sale on jcrew.com and we should order together.) I grasp it when I turn away and run away and friends chase after me.
God chases after us. When our communities chase after us, and we chase after them, we experience a tiny taste of God’s oh-so-big love. That’s community: a glimpse of God’s grace and boundless love, here on Earth. He’s got the whole world in his hands, after all.
This week, I’m blogging about community — what it means to me, how I’ve found it, why we need it more now than ever and how you might find it also. I’d love to hear your stories of community.