Embrace Imperfect Community

Scholars call Genesis chapter one The Song of Creation. As God creates, He sings for joy. Like an artist who steps back to appreciate his work, God breaks out in poetry and at the end of each stanza (each day) he sings, “It is good!”

From the perspective of Genesis 2, the Song of Creation builds to a crescendo on the sixth day, after God creates Adam in His image; and then suddenly the song screeches to a halt. God yells, “It is not good!” God then, seemingly, walks off stage at the climax of the concert and takes the composer’s sheets with him. He scribbles new notes as the orchestra and audience wonder, “What’s wrong?”

What is so problematic that God interrupts the song of creation?

“It is not good for man to be alone.” God said. (Genesis 2:18) So, He created a friend for Adam, named Eve.

Why did Adam need a human friend so desperately? Adam had God at his side. Was God not enough? Sin had not yet entered the world, so it couldn’t have been that Adam needed support for difficult times.

By including a dramatic pause in The Song of Creation, God was making a dramatic point. He was saying that human friendship is not merely beneficial, but absolutely necessary. If humans are made in God’s image, and God is a community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); then no one can be fully human outside community.

At creation, Adam and Eve delighted in perfect community — with each other and with God. There was no shame, no fear, no disappointment. There was only beautiful intimacy.

Since the fall, our ability to function in community has been severely damaged. Community works about as well as a smartphone with a cracked screen. It still functions but the image has been distorted. This can cause enough frustration to tempt us to go without. But that would mean losing something that still has value and functionality.

It may be frustrating to live in community but it is unbearable to live outside of it. We tend to lose our humanity when we are separated from others for too long. We may not bother to make the bed, get dressed or use utensils. Like a hermit, we’ll appear more beastly over time.

Unfortunately, living in community usually gets harder during seasons of suffering. Even the most extroverted among us are tempted to pull away from the very people we need. We can anticipate how a certain person (or group of people) will respond. Stepping into community, we become vulnerable and we actually don’t know what someone may say and do! Facing this unknown is exhausting and stressful. It just seems easier to hide away and avoid all potentially uncomfortable situations.

People are a mixed bag of treats — sometimes sweet, sometimes sour. Suffering amplifies that experience. When a friend anticipates our needs without making a fuss; it leaves an unforgettable savor, like grandma’s chicken soup. But when they forget about us (and say something hurtful); it is like food poisoning that turns our insides out. We would do anything to avoid a second incident.

During seasons of suffering, we long for real rest. We want to be understood and encouraged. We need people to weep with us — to share our pain because we can’t bear it alone. We cannot handle all our normal responsibilities and our suffering at the same time. We need help, but we don’t know how to ask for it. Managing help requires more forethought and energy than we can spare. We need people to jump in and simply do what needs to be done, without being asked. Unfortunately they don’t always know what to do. And, the average person relates awkwardly. They don’t know what to say, so they say nothing; or they say something stupid.

The bottom line is during your season of suffering you must offer forgiveness toward people offering imperfect help. Walking this path is not easy, but it is better than the alternative — going down the isolating path of resentment.

Thankfully we have a Savior who showed us the way forward.  He not only suffers with us but he also shows us how to embrace the imperfect help of others.

“Keep watch and pray.” Jesus told his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. They tried to help but failed him miserably during his greatest hour of need.

Remember, you are not alone. Everyone must embrace the only type of community available to them — an imperfect one. While it may be tempting to go without it, you simply cannot afford it and maintain your humanity.  The community surrounding you may be damaged but it is still functional. So embrace it. And, who knows, it may pleasantly surprise you!

Featured Picture Credits (modified)

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