Transitions may excite you or fill you with dread. Whatever end of the spectrum you fall on, important pieces like changing jobs, making new friends, figuring out daily rhythms need to be sorted. Author and poet Sarah Wells recently went through all three of these shifts and shares her story in navigating these transitions. 

This Part 3 of a four part series on Difficulties of Transitions. Access the rest of the series here:

Changing Directions | Church Hunting | Life Together | Bringing the Word


 

 

I started the new year feeling a need for some meaty inspirational reading, so I picked up a book that’s been sitting on our shelves for a while now, Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 

Hangin’ out with other believers and talking about Jesus is one of my favorite things to do, but deep and sustaining relationships in the church are sometimes hard to come by. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Christians can be kind of judgmental and easily offended. Whaaaaaat?! I know. Crazy. Because of this and my incapacity for small talk, I don’t find it easy to jump right into faith communities. I’m not always sure if they’re going to get me, and I don’t want to offend them by my sarcasm, self-deprecation, wide laugh, and loud grace.

 

That insecurity decreased significantly when I found a like-minded collection of believers. We hang out long distance via Facebook in a secret group (that sounds dirty but it is totally legit . . . also you can’t check because the group is secret). We laugh together, we pray for each other, we cry together, we rejoice over publications (they are also writers), and we generally love one another.

 

That kind of life together is the power of a body of believers building one another up in the image of Christ, helping them become the fullest version of the person God created them to be, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion (that’s from the Bible).

 

Dietrich agrees. We’re on a first-name basis, me and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer,” he says early on in Life Together. My secret Facebook group of friends long to be together, can’t wait for the next retreat or conference where we can come together, eat and drink and laugh together, then sing and dance and play music together in a hotel room, being an amazing, awesome dorky group of Christian writers. Likewise, I long to sit with my closest friends back in Ashland, sipping wine and eating dark chocolate and cheese—the holiest of foods—and to be joyful together. Those times with other believers build up strength for the in-between.

 

Our family has found a group of believers in our new town. In a lovely gift of mercy, friends of ours we’ve known for decades live a half-mile away from our new home. (Decades?! We’re old now.) They started a home church about a year and a half ago, and when we moved last fall, they welcomed us into their fold. We gather on Friday nights to read and study the Bible together while our children eat donuts and chips and brownies and destroy their basement.

 

The group tries to serve together at a local ministry every other month. We enjoy sporting events together. We play games together. We seek after Christ together and encourage one another in our weekly goings-on. We pray for one another. None of us really knows what we’re doing, but we’re trying to live our lives together well.

 

Nearly every community of believers I have been a part of has struggled at some point or another to determine the vision and mission of its organization. Now that we have been brought together in this beautiful, holy, messy, disorganized tribe, we need some order, dag nabbit. Who will collect the dues? Who will build the website? Do we let in outsiders?

 

D-Bone speaks to this problem directly.

 

“The life or death of a Christian community is determined by whether it achieves sober wisdom on this point [the ability to distinguish between a human ideal and God’s ideal] as soon as possible. In other words, life together under the Word will remain sound and healthy only where it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegium pietatis, but rather where it understands itself as being a part of the one, holy, catholic, Christian Church, where it shares actively and passively in the sufferings and struggles and promise of the whole Church.”

 

I read this and then I read this again. Ah. Here is the problem with almost every one of the Christian communities I’ve been a part of: we humanize it. We impose the world’s ideas of how communities should operate upon our God-gathered misfit disciples of Christ.

 

Thanks, God, for bringing us all together in this miraculous collision of time, space, and consequence, but now that we’re together, we’ll handle things from here.

 

It is difficult to resist this micromanagement in Christian community, difficult to rein in our ambitions for what we think successful Christian living ought to look like and just let it be in the simple ways Jesus demonstrated. Dietrich continues in Life Together to remind us how we ought to live together, how we can prepare for the day with our family unit so that we carry the Word and Spirit with us throughout the workday, and what other practical steps can be taken to ensure the health and vibrancy of our community.

 

Finding and investing in a body of believers is one of the gifts of following Jesus. It’s what God did while he was walking around with his buddies the apostles, showing up at people’s houses and making wine and eating bread, telling blind men to see and lame men to walk and stuff. He prayed with his friends, talked about the kingdom of heaven, and went fishing.

 

The community of believers that followed after Jesus sought to embody that same spirit of community, outlined in Acts 2:42–47. It’s full of devotion and fellowship, eating and praying, awe and wonder, companionship and sharing, generosity and gladness, praise and favor.

 

Boy, that sounds miserable. Who would want to be a part of that kind of a community? Jesus and Dietrich, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Give me life in isolation or give me death.

Read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s a quick and hearty reminder of how simple it is to live together. Let’s stop complicating it.


 

 

This Part 3 of a four part series on Difficulties of Transitions. Access the rest of the series here:

Changing Directions | Church Hunting | Life Together | Bringing the Word