Recently a few friends of mine have started doing game nights every (or most every) Friday night. I have to admit that I really enjoy this, and not just because there’s a young lady there who I rather like. It’s about community, and community is important, whether it’s a meal with people from the church, game night with friends, going to see a movie, or just hanging out drinking whiskey and talking about Jesus (and yes, the two of those go together very well).
We weren’t made to live alone, and all too often most of us do. Even those of us who spend lots of time with people often feel alone, in fact I would go so far as to say that loneliness is one of the most significant modern problems. We’ve forgotten how to live in community, how to get outside of ourselves. Life together, as Bonhoeffer titled his book, is about more than just spending time around people. It is about getting to know them, investing in their lives and letting them invest in yours. Life together is about becoming a family, trusting one another, accepting one another, forgiving one another, and helping one another, and this is something that we aren’t taught to do anymore.
As Americans, we live in a society that is so completely opposed to the concept of ‘togetherness’ that we’ve turned selfishness into a virtue. Individuality is the highest goal in American society, but we’ve made it such a high goal that we even see it’s flaws as golden, or at least gilded in gold. Personal ambition, greed, selfishness, pride… all things that we not only put up with, but seek after. Oh, we rename them sometimes: pride becomes self-confidence, ambition becomes goal-orientation, greed becomes success, and selfishness becomes individual expression, but they still leave us lonely and unfulfilled.
This is not to say that utter dependency is a wonderful thing. To be unable to do anything on your own simply makes you a burden. However, as I have said before, everything is balance. If I must give up some of myself to have five people in my life who know me and love me anyway (not the easiest thing in the world, certainly), then is it not worth the sacrifice?
I have to admit that this is not a balance that I’ve yet found. As in many things, I tend to vacillate between extremes without ever managing to settle at a comfortable medium. It is something that, at least I hope, God is still working on me in.