For those of you keeping track of the Joyful Community blog, I last posted on Monday... that is the day we will explore thoughts on loving others. On Wednesdays, we will post about our passion for all things community. So let's get started.
It might be difficult for some people to believe but I grew up with very few friends. From as early as I can remember I was overweight or to use the common vernacular I was FAT. Some of my earliest memories are those of being embarrassed by how fat I was. Guess what... insecure, scared people have a difficult time making friends. Yet I needed to "survive" school and other social occasions. That's how I learned that if I can make you laugh at a joke (even a joke about me being fat) then your attention was quickly taken off my looks and onto the humor of the joke. I learned to "leave 'em laughing" and then scoot away before you got too close. I spent my entire childhood into adulthood with this modus operandi. People who tell drive-by jokes have a difficult time making a list of their closest friends. Remember lunchtime at high school and/or junior high? You probably remember sitting with a friend or the same group of friends every day. I have no such memory. I would not allow anyone to get to know me that well. Instead, I would gulp down my food and then make the rounds to various tables where I would tell a joke or two and scoot off to the next table. I have other examples of this but I think you get my point. Now that I have settled down, done some soul searching and spent hours in counseling, I see the friendships I missed. I don't want to miss anymore. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about community.
Being in loving community with very different individuals, well it is a dream. It is a memory of a time that has not happened yet. It is the haunting melody of a song I've never heard. Yet I believe I will sing that song and I will live that future memory. It is what we yearn for and what God has called us to. In Winston-Salem, there is a hospital called "Baptist Hospital" and in Charlotte there is one called "Presbyterian Hospital". No one assumes that if you are admitted, to either hospital then they will attempt to make you leave there as a Baptist or a Presbyterian (thank God). But rather the people who founded these hospitals have responded to the love of God by making their community a better place to live. We also have been touched by the grace and love of God. We want to respond by making our city or our corner of the city a better place to live.
Another reason we are passionate about community? It's the way God created us. For more on this you might want to check out an earlier post by CLICKING HERE. Stop and think about it. Every image and scenario that the Bible gives about Heaven always talks about bringing us into community. We will rejoice in community together at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. In Revelation we see a heavenly city descending from the sky. A city... a huge city, not a suburb or a remote place in the mountains. From the beginning, God said it was not good that we should be alone. We are just created that way. One of the ways we are to show our love for God is to love those around us. You know, God sort of assumes that we will have others around us most of the time. Isn't it interesting that Jesus went through His time of ministry here on earth in the midst of community? He didn't do much without the disciples nearby. And not just the twelve disciples but there is a reference to as many as 70 following Him fairly consistently. If we look at the disciples then we know that Jesus' community was not a homogenized group of middle-class Jews that looked alike, thought alike and had similar political views. No, this was a rough and tumble lot that had to work hard at community because they were so different.
To demonstrate how we are wired for community let's take a look at what happens when one is exposed to the opposite of community. We've all heard of solitary confinement. Unfortunately, this is a practice that is still permitted in our prisons. In 1951 researchers at McGill University paid a group of male graduate students to participate in an experiment on sensory deprivation. They were to stay in small chambers equipped with only a bed . They could leave to use the bathroom, but that’s all. They wore goggles and earphones to limit their sense of sight and hearing, and gloves to limit their sense of touch. The plan was to observe the students for six weeks, but not one lasted more than seven days. Nearly every student lost the ability “to think clearly about anything for any length of time,” while several others began to suffer hallucinations. “One man could see nothing but dogs,” wrote one of the study’s collaborators, “another nothing but eyeglasses of various types, and so on.” Okay, okay... that might be a little extreme... goggles and earphones and gloves! But I thought I would include it because it is so amazing that no one could make it through seven days of sensory deprivation and no human contact.
To hone in more specifically on the lack of human contact, another recent study on actual prisoners who had been subjected to solitary confinement was pretty amazing. Stuart Grassian, a board-certified psychiatrist and a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, has interviewed hundreds of prisoners in solitary confinement. In one study, he found that roughly a third of solitary inmates were “actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal.” Grassian has since concluded that solitary can cause a specific psychiatric syndrome, characterized by hallucinations, panic attacks, overt paranoia, diminished impulse control, hypersensitivity to external stimuli, and difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory. Some inmates lose the ability to maintain a state of alertness, while others develop crippling obsessions. (from PBS website HERE)
Well, that lays the groundwork for our thoughts on community and why we are so jazzed about it. As the weeks go by we hope to develop more ways of doing community and bringing you in on the process.