The Gift of Community
By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at blessedjourneyblog.com.
Working on oneself takes courage and is utterly important in one’s life. Healing old wounds, learning new ways of being is a huge part of what this journey is about. There have been books and silent or personal retreats that have changed my world radically. But, have you ever had the experience where you think you’re “over” something only to have an interaction with someone and realize you still have work to do?
We can read all we want and work on our selves, but the rubber meets the road in community, when we are in the messy work of relationships. It’s kind of like the work we do on our own is going to school and the work we do in being with others is on-the-job training.
We don’t have to face anger or jealousies when we are alone because there’s no one to be angry at or jealous of. Then there is also the tension between caring for others and caring for oneself. Sometimes these two needs are opposed and what do we do then?
At one time I lived on the same circle as a family from another culture than mine. All the generations loved to be outside laughing and talking (and who doesn’t) well into the night. They were an open, friendly group, but what was I to do when my young children needed to go to sleep on a school night and the family’s activities were going on? Therein lies the rub.
Oh, but there is so much richness, so much delight and pleasure in relationship that we can’t reach on our own. Yes, it also brings with it the low, lows, but if we allow it and stay open it can be a mirror and we can learn more faster by being with others, being companions.
This is the part I have been focusing on of late. Remembering there is that of God in each of us and there is something to learn from everyone if I just keep an open heart and mind.