community: my first taste of it and why it matters

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. 

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12 thoughts on “community: my first taste of it and why it matters

  1. I didn’t know mizzou had RUF (but then again it wasn’t till after college that I learned about reformed theology, and I came into college a semi-“devout” Catholic, so I guess that would explain it!) My FIG in Gillett Hall (honors humanities because the journalism one was full :)) and our “Learning Community” in general provided a tremendous community my freshman year too. I still think of freshman year as such a magical, fun experience because of not just the friendships but, yes, that sense of community with those on the 4th and 5th floors of Gillett. That kind of built-in community is a lot harder to find outside of college simply due to the reality that you aren’t living side-by-side with people that share your interests and life stage. That means you have to be more intentional about building community relationships, and in our world of self-centered busyness it really is a challenge, but one that’s worth pursuing.

    • Alison, you are so right. That’s what I’ve found as I’ve moved past college too — it takes so much more intentionality to build relationships. But so worth it when it works!

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  3. You, my dear, are fabulous (obviously). I’ve been looking for a word to describe what I’m missing her in the 214 and you just hit the nail on the head.

    I wish that I could say I’ve found it here, but sadly it’s just not true. Family I have, but you can never lose that – whether it’s your blood family or the family we all create for ourselves as adults. What I’m missing is community, because really, those three years in the dorms were so amazing that it’s hard to even match the sense of togetherness and belonging I felt there. Your friend Alison is right to point out that it’s not as easy to come by outside the collegiate life. It’s quite the task.

    But, as always, my dear, you give me something to aspire to. And maybe now that my missing piece has a name, I’ll be able to find it better. 🙂 Love love.

    PS – we look so cute in that picture (except for Seth, because boys are handsome – not cute).

  4. Oh FIGs and RUF and J-school — oh my! I miss them all. Making community in the real world is so much more difficult. Intentionality is a big part of it, but it’s hard when you’re not a naturally outgoing person. It’s important to be true to yourself while you’re working to form a community — that I’ve definitely learned in the last year and a half. Those commonalities are essential, too. Good and inspiring post, Mrs. S.

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