“I can’t believe that you let me sign your table the first time I came to your house for dinner. I’m surprised that you don’t want to be sure that I’m going to come back.”
“Of course!” I replied, “Everyone who shares a meal with us at our table is invited to sign it regardless of whether you come one time or for years. Signing our table isn’t an invitation that you have to earn.”
I continue to reflect on this conversation that I shared with a young woman standing on my candlelit patio.
We all feel this way some times, or a lot of the time. That we don’t deserve someone’s offering of time or kindness or grace unless we have somehow earned it.
But community doesn’t flourish under a system of even exchanges.
Community at it’s best is created when we share care for each other regardless of whether or not it’s been earned by the time or efforts invested.
One of the greatest reasons that community has grown to be so significant in my life is because I have asked for and offered help to people who I haven’t necessarily spent a ton of social time with.
During difficult seasons I’ve reached out to a few people within my church community, regardless of how much time we’ve invested in a reciprocal friendship. The amount of time we’ve spent together isn’t nearly as significant as the depth of meaningful life moments we’ve shared.
I think this is what God intended when he established his Church. Not to be merely a house of prayer, worship, and teaching – or a social club that fills our calendars with activities. But to also be a place where we can reach out to others and say I’m sinking in a storm and I need a few trusted people to help me keep my head above the deepening waters.
When we are wounded or sad or scared, I think there are more people around us in our community willing to offer help than we realize. We unnecessarily limit the pool of support around us when we pre-decide that we haven’t earned the right to ask people in our community to come along side us – especially when we know of people who possess the wisdom that we need because they’ve already successfully walked through the fire of a similar difficulty.
We are not created to carry our burdens by ourselves. Life can be far too heavy. We are created to carry burdens with our people. And not just the ones we’ve given enough to so that we feel like it’s okay to ask for their support. A system of uneven exchanges really is one of the keys that opens the door to the gifts of community.