After I graduated from college in 2012, I moved to Southern California to stay with my family temporarily while I searched for what would be next. During that time, I struggled to feel connected to the Ark, despite the fact that it had been my church home for 3.5 years by that point. I isolated myself, and told myself that it wouldn’t matter if I returned to the Bay, that my relationships there were based on geographical proximity alone, and that if I never went back, my relationships would dissolve as though they had never existed. Fortunately, I had two Ark members with whom I had pledged to look for housing, and eventually we found and made a home together. The year we lived together was one of the most difficult years of my life to date, as I was struggling through depression, hopelessness, and aimlessness, but I was met with incredible grace and patience from the ladies I lived with. At the end of the year, we decided not to renew our lease, and to part ways. I left the Ark to travel in November 2013, with aims to return in January 2014 and learn to truly live a “life of faith” and dependency on God. He has far exceeded those wishes.
When I returned to the Bay at the end of April, my plan was to look for housing on my own. I’ve lived with friends and I’ve lived with strangers, and though I preferred the former, I didn’t mind the latter. In reality, it wasn’t until I had a conversation with one of my friends that I realized I actually really wanted to live in community, but simply didn’t believe it was possible – not only logistically impossible, as I didn’t know anyone looking for housing at the time, but on a much deeper level, I feared the thought of living with someone who I cared about and had relationship with, because when I looked at myself, I saw only the ugliness, the ways in which I am difficult to love. I thought that my prior roommates were an anomaly, and that it would be impossible for me to inflict myself upon a new set of roommates whom I actually cared about, and for them to love me when they fully saw who I was.
Nevertheless, with my friend’s encouragement, I reached out to some Ark members, and a small group of us banded together and began to search for a place to live. I was reluctant, still unsure of how we could really bond, but trusted the principle that living in community is a good thing. We met so many challenges – open house after open house, crazy competition in the market, a limited budget, a very near miss in what seemed like an ideal situation – and through those trials, God genuinely changed my heart to love the women of the group even before we moved in together. I felt that God was laying a foundation even before giving us a home, so that we wouldn’t have to forge relationships from scratch, but would enter our house already as a unit.
What happened next was, actually, that our group disbanded. We didn’t end up finding a place together, and in fact, most of us are still looking for a more permanent housing solution. But God has also more greatly expanded my understanding of living in community, and what it means to be in a covenant relationship.
I’ve been throwing this phrase around, “living in community,” without clarifying exactly what I mean. For the most part, when that phrase is used, it means being intentional in your relationships with your roommates or housemates; it is a choice, a commitment to share your lives as a family, rather than live as isolated individuals under one roof. This is what I’ve meant by that phrase up to this point.
I have been couch-surfing for over six months now. Never before have I been so dependent on others, so in need of physical assistance and the material provision of God, and you know what? God has moved mightily through this family to take care of me to this point. Many of you, members of the Ark, have welcomed me into your homes, sometimes for weeks on end, sometimes for just a few nights; you have let me do laundry, you have fed me, you have driven me places, you have given me spare keys and held onto scattered belongings when I couldn’t manage them all at once; you have even given me money when I was just scraping by. Whether I eventually live with members of the Ark community permanently, or find random roommates on Craigslist, or live nowhere at all, I now know what it means to live in community within the body of Christ, and that the only thing that can prevent me from living in community is myself. The decision to join a church, become a member, is a covenant decision. In making it, you are saying “I am one of you; I am one of your people, and you are one of my people.” It means you lay yourselves down for one another, you love each other into inconvenience, you share in the joys, you carry the burdens, you comfort, you know, and are known, and this extends beyond four walls and a roof. Though I’m still searching for an apartment, I know where my home is, and I know who my family is.
First shared at Ark Sunday Service, November 9th, 2014