At times, it’s been easy for me to forget the importance of community in my life. And it’s weird, because at times it feels like certain images and messages reinforce the idea that community isn’t that important.
I was watching an episode of 30 Rock today (I’m still hell-bent on meeting, befriending, and spending the rest of my life with Tina Fey) and Jack Donaghy, the ever-quotable GE executive, was talking about relationships. He was reminding Liz that you’re born alone and you die alone so why try to build relationships in the meantime.
Obviously, I’ve heard that line before. Not just on TV shows, but in real life, talking to real people. It’s a kind of common phrase that you’re born alone and you die alone, but it’s usually uttered by cynical types who are fed up with relationships. And the counter to the phrase is usually, Yeah, but that’s why you should be with people for all the time in between!
In fact, you aren’t born alone and there’s probably a 50/50 chance you don’t die alone either. When I was born, both my parents were there. My brother was in the other room waiting. The doctor was coaching my mom through the process. Nurses were probably chilling in the area too. And my situation isn’t even all that different from most. Although not all babies are born in hospitals with doctors and nurses around, all babies come out of mothers (mothers count as people, right?) and oftentimes there is some kind of baby-helping specialist and community of people.
You don’t always die alone either. Sometimes you die in a hospital or some kind of care facility. There are probably millions of ways to die and at least half of them include some other person or persons.
But maybe I’m misunderstanding the quote. Maybe it’s about community. Maybe the idea is that you’re born alone (by yourself, on your own) and you die that way too. But even that’s wrong sometimes. Some people are twins.
In any case, community is important and inescapable.
This past Friday, I went to the fellowship group I had been attending for the past semester and while I was there, I remembered how good community felt. Before I showed up, I had convinced myself that I only really had one good friend in the group and if she wasn’t there there wouldn’t be much of a reason for me to be there. But afterwards, I realized that there were a lot of people there I really liked. And those people gave me such a strong sense of community, something I haven’t had in a while.
Without community, it’s easy to falter and lose track of all the other important stuff. Without community, everything else is so much harder.
A friend texted me the other day, asking my thoughts on the importance of bible-reading, prayer, and church/fellowship were for a Christian life. I told her they all were but that fellowship was the one most likely to lead to the other two. And it’s true. We were made for community. We were even commanded to it. And though I’ve had great periods in life when I wasn’t surrounded by a community, those were probably the exception and not the rule.
I could go on and on about community and faith and God but I won’t because I’ve done nothing all day and that feels wrong. But I will say that I don’t think it’s even possible to overestimate the importance of fellowship and community. And I don’t think it’s possible to replace authentic community. And I think both those things make community so amazing and fun and important and life-giving.