The Distance Factor of Attraction

A few thoughts on how some things can be more attractive the further they are from you.

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Living in community is hard. Living in community is messy. Living in community is challenging. It is so many things that can be described to you, but until you experience it for yourself it’s hard to know exactly what those words mean.

The title of this blog comes from an idea I had back in high school for a blog that I kept for a grade. I never ended up writing it, but the subject matter was for something much less noble than intentional community (I was a sixteen year old high school male; use your imagination). But recent events and conversations have come up within my community here in Tucson that caused me to resurrect the idea from that old blog and apply it to this situation. Also I don’t think any of my blogs have focused on my thoughts about any of the YAV program’s core tenets. So here goes nothing.

In my experience with Christianity community has been a buzzword, a goal, the pinnacle of the Christian experience. I went to a Christian liberal arts university and worked with residence life where I lived and breathed community for four years. So much of what I heard about community in that context was filtered through rose-colored glasses. And as I look back on those years I realize how far away from intentional community my time at Asbury was. I don’t say this to knock anything that the Res Life staff at Asbury does, but my experience with community there is a shadow of what I have experienced this year in Tucson.

To get back to the distance factor of attraction. My theory is that things can look better the farther removed you are from them. This also works in reverse. It actually describes my experience with Mt. Rushmore. Up close, the monument is amazing, especially when you consider that it was carved with dynamite. However, from far away, Mt. Rushmore is underwhelming. It is dwarfed by the landscape that surrounds it in South Dakota. But I digress. For me, this year living in community has been a study in the distance factor of attraction to intentional living. Even going into this year I was excited about the opportunity to live every day life in a communal context. College was great, but living in the “real world” was a new adventure in community. However, the closer I’ve gotten to community, the less it looks like it did when I was considering it from August 2016. Community is hard. Community is work. Community is getting pissed off at each other and yelling over little things (and big things). Community is sharing things you would be much more comfortable not sharing. Community can be ugly sometimes and can leave you wondering why you ever wanted to join the experiment in the first place.

But community is also fun. It is supportive. It is affirming. It is a beautiful thing. It is getting down in the muck and yelling and getting mad and growing together. It is a learning process. It is (for me) a preparation for the most intimate intentional community (marriage). It is that ideal plane of existence that is often lauded in Christian circles. But it is also a lot of hard work. It is catching glimpses of the beauty through the ugly, hard parts.

So maybe this whole intentional community piece is only a partial study in the distance factor of attraction. Maybe the hard parts dominate community life so the beautiful parts can become that much more precious. Maybe my entire premise is wrong. Who knows? All I know is that my experience this year of community has made me reconsider how I think of community. It has warts and difficulties and it is almost never perfect (all things that are hard to consider if one is not in the midst of community life). But working through all of that exposes a beauty that is also greater than one can appreciate without being a part of it.

Living in community is hard. Living in community is messy. Living in community is messy. Living in community is a new experience each and every day.

And so we go.

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