My friend Chris left the following comment on my previous post. My response got long enough I decided it needed to be its own post!
What say you to folks out there who would respond with: "I'm too busy to share deep relationships with other people" and/or "Too many people have let me down throughout my life, and I'm not going to put myself on the line like that anymore"? Also, we talk a lot about how life in the suburbs seems to discourage (or at least make it really difficult) to share in communitas with others. How does life in the suburbs encourage such relationships?
First of all I'd say, I totally understand.
I've lost count of how many jobs I have and can't remember the last time I woke up without a list of things I had to get done yesterday. There's never a day that I think to myself, "I really have too much free time, I should develop some deeper relationships."
I also know all too well what it is like to be let down by people. We've put ourselves out there only to be burned on more occasions than I like to remember. We've totally thrown ourselves into the work of a church only to be put on the street without warning because a committee decided that paying off building debt was more important than my family.
So I get it. But as citizens of the new kingdom we have no choice in this matter. We can sit around feeling sorry for ourselves or worse yet, we can sit around feeling justified in our seclusion. But in the end the reality is simple. The Creator of the Universe has reached out and redeemed us and in turn has called us to serve as ambassadors for the renewed world.
The old-timers - like my mom ;) - used to tell me, "can't never could do nothin."
We are the people of hope. We must live that hope if it is going to mean anything at all. There is room for struggle and doubt, but there is no room for resigning ourselves to mediocrity and complacency with a status quo that is far from God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
To be clear, I'm not saying that everyone needs to dedicate 30 hours a week to an evangelism campaign or begin every conversation with, "Do you know Jesus as your personal savior?" Certainly the relationships we cultivate grow directly from our connection to Christ and our agenda is driven by our conviction that the kingdom of God is at hand.
That is why surface relationships can no longer suffice. Friendships may begin at a surface level and may even stay there for a while, but when we choose to leave them that way, the relationship (and we) fail to bear the mark of kingdom. I realize that it is scary and intimidating to put ourselves out there, risking rejection and frustration. But it is well worth the risk. Rejection is frightening, but isolation is flat out terrifying...and some of our friends and neighbors are silently gripped with terror.
I think that the suburbs are a very hard place to cast this vision. However, one reason that many people choose to live in the 'burbs is a desire to raise their kids in a more family focused community. We have dreams of the white picket fence and waving at our neighbors while we mow the lawn. That turns out, for the most part, to be a myth and culture quickly sells us on a more consumer friendly version of community. Instead of the picket fence and hand waving, we settle for facebook and drive-thru lattes. Instead of glasses of iced tea on the front porch everyone drives their car into a garage and watch TV inside until time to rush off to work or soccer practice.
However, perhaps with time we can reignite people's imagination for "a better life," one that is filled with meaning and substance rather than just filled with activity. However, this won't happen unless we are, at some level, embracing and experiencing such a life ourselves.