I grew up in a large Italian family. That equals loud and boisterous and a little crazy. I loved it. You didn’t have a crazy uncle or a crazy aunt because we are all crazy. Everyone was a little burdensome, but with good pasta and good wine, it was easy to carry. We gathered and celebrated every holiday. We knew Uncle Hank was a jerk, but we ignored that piece of him because he was family.
This is community.
As I started to raise my own children, they didn’t have the same family life I did while growing up. They were too old for their cousins on one side of the family and too young on the other side. There was a broken part of my heart and I didn’t know what to do.
Around the same time, I joined a life group. At our church, a life group is simply a group you do life with. We raised children together. We had traditions we celebrated together. We had beautiful holy moments that only a few know of. We became the crazy family all our hearts were missing.
Then, our kids grew up. They began to have opinions. They didn’t always like all the kids in the group. I didn’t always like all the people in the group. And this truth broke my heart.
This is when it hit me- our life group had become our family. Family doesn’t always like each other. That is not the deal. Family has an unwritten rule that you love each other even when you do not like them. Please hear- I am not talking about abuse, whether that the emotional, physical, or spiritual. I am talking normal, everyday burdensome people. The average crazy. They are all around us. They say the wrong thing. They have a weird political agenda. They make you want to drink all the wine and most of the whiskey.
This is community.
Then my husband leaves me. My life gets messy. I get messy. Too messy for many. I was almost all alone. All I had was the one thing my soul holds to be true- Emmanuel. I was suddenly without community, but I wasn’t all alone. For me, during the messiest of times, my community was just us two- me and my God.
With His help, I decided to be brave and live my life only caring what He and I thought. I took back my husband. We began to rebuild our family. Living life not caring what others thought of me brought great freedom, but it also had some repercussions. I lost some friends. I lost some family. However, I gained something I did not know existed. After the dust settled, I looked around and saw that in my brave act, I surrounded myself with people that believed the impossible was possible. We no longer believed things were hopeless. We no longer believed people were hopeless. Suddenly, my community wasn’t just family or just friends… it was the people that loved me and my family with a graceful passion and that was unchanging. We loved each other because it was the only thing our hearts would allow. We were to become the community of second, third, and all the chances.
This is community.
Because we have fought for it and because we were brave, we now have a community that sees the truth. Because our truth is rooted in love, we are willing to look beyond the brokenness and the uncomfortable and seek understanding. We want to cheer each other on and we want people that are willing to cheer us on. We know there is a powerful love that connects us, and we don’t want to let it go.
This is my community.
Do you have one? It isn’t always family. It isn’t always because of a belief system. It isn’t always people that love what you love. It is simply, and most complicatedly, people that are willing to look beyond all of your bullshit, and in turn, you look beyond theirs. And right there, between the bullshit and the divine, you find you love each other for just what you are.
Be brave. Get one. It will be the worst and the best, the scariest and bravest, the messiest and most fun, the most painful and the most loving thing you will ever do.
I am doing this project with some inspiring women. Please start with Sarah’s blog and then click on through. We hope you are encouraged.
Oh Staci, this was so wonderful to read. I love the way you write. I felt like I was sitting right there with you. I most especially love the part about how family has an unwritten rule that you love each other even when you do not like them. We have a very big divide in our family right now and I’m of the same belief as you but they seem to be of the belief that entirely cutting us out is the answer. So your words really could resonate with me today. They always do, that’s why I have chosen you to be part of my community.
Thank you! I am so thankful you are part of my community. You are a treasure.
I like that. You had your family, then found your community who in turn, became family. I love your thoughts on community. xo
What a beautiful essay on community- I love your thoughts and your example for others!
Thank you! xx