The Quest for Community

So my son and I have been "stay at home Christians" for a couple of months now. Which basically means that we haven't been to church, unless things like a family visit or school chior appearance required it of us.

We've done OK, I think. We try to get in our own God-time, but it's been slacking off a bit in the past 2 months. Most days we just sit - me trying to get some reading in, and my son left to his own devices. Which at times bores him out of his skull. Other days I get up the inspiration to do something creative - like send him out to capture God in nature with the digital camera, then take a turn doing it myself. Back home we upload the pics and share where we saw God and why.

Yet... there's that community thing missing. We've been at home alone so long that we find ourselves VERY alone. Lonely. And although I can't bear to set foot in any one of the many churches around, I hear them singing and carrying on and a part of me wants in. I want the experience, but just don't want those particular people! I want to belong somewhere, or a part of me does.

It sounds strange, I know. And it's almost enough to get me back into pew-warming, but not quite.

There's still that part of me that won't tolerate mere pew-warming, t that refuses to take the easier road just because it is easier. That wants more than the church smiles and one hour each week of friendship.

My soul grates against artificiality, but the real stuff is tantalizingly out of reach. Perhaps my own fault, for refusing to settle for less.

You see, I have this image in my head of a long trestle table, covered in white cloth and set in a field of grass under huge trees. It's filled to the brim with family and friends, gathered around a simple yet hearty meal that lasts for hours and hours. The kids run through the grass when they've had their fill, and wander back when their stomachs need a top-up. There's a tyre swing over there, and a creek at the bottom of the field. Everyone is perched on a motly assortment of old chairs - each to his favourite one. Perhaps this is what the Great Feast in heaven looks like, but my image of it is right here on earth. Picture a country wedding celebration in Tuscany, and you might be close.

And with that image in my head, I cannot settle for anything less than a family-like experience. I'm tired of saying I'm OK, when I'm not, just because the asker is in a hurry. I'm fed up with the rushed pace of life that makes 2-minute post-church connections the only community you'll ever get. I dislike sitting behind a sea of heads facing forward, people I'll never know, who will never know me.

This weekend I really wanted to jump in the car and spend time with my family - hours and hours of just hanging out and being together. Unfortunately, everyone has a life and their schedule doesn't allow sudden family-urges.

But I want that - oh, how I want that. And if family isn't always available, surely community-family could be, should be?

I don't have a big circle of friends. I've always been a bit of a loner, and am not quite sure how to connect with others, even now. I was never part of the "in" crowd, I was always on the edge, a bit too quiet, too arty, too...whatever, to be included in the beautiful, sporty group. Those fingerprints from my growing years still mark my adulthood - and leave me on the outside of many groups. Although I get along with just about everyone, it's hard for me to pinpoint any friends I could just drop in on, or call up at 2 in the morning with an emergency. Then there's my dodgy car that may not make it there or back to visit anyone....

And because of this, I find myself on the outside of whatever community seems available. Whether the informal campus one, the church ones, the town one, the family afar one, or any others. Some of them seem so superficial - but perhaps once I'm "in" they wouldn't be. I dunno....

So I sit, unmoving, wishing and hoping that one day I'll be a part of something that feels warm and fuzzy. Stuck between the here (life in a rush, people on a schedule, hello's in passing, cars that jerk to a stop) and the maybe. Big chasm between, no apparent bridge.

I can see my son suffering in this. He's at the age where a few good male role models are desperately needed. His uncles he sees maybe once a month. That's all. Grandad over the sea, dad unknown (well, known about, but never met). Being part of a close community would be just wonderful for him. It would give him adults other than his not-always-there mom to model and learn from. Surrogate brothers and sisters to get along with (social skills!), and uncles/aunts grandparents aplenty. Or so I would hope.

I'm just rambling on here, I know (this post has been written over about 3 hours, so may seem more than a little disjointed). Most of you have left off reading at the header already. But this is something very big in my life that I'm struggling with, longing for, and unsure of how to find. What better place than a blog to try and work through it? Even if the questions are still there after I hit "publish post"...