Community: Living with Freaks
Before I lived in community, I thought faith, mine being Christian faith, was something a person did alone, like monks in caves. I thought the backbone of faith was time alone with God, time reading ancient texts and meditating on poetry or the precepts of natural law and, perhaps, when a person gets good and godly, levitating potted plants or pitchers of water. . . .
If other people were part of the Christian journey, they had small roles; they were accountability partners or counselors or husbands or wives. I hadn’t seen a single book (outside the majority of books in the New Testament) that addressed a group of people or a community
with advice about faith.
[My friend] Rick does not have much tolerance for people living alone. . . . If Rick thinks somebody is lonely, he can’t sleep at night. He wants us all to live with each other and play nice so he can get some rest. Tortured soul.
I didn’t know what to think about the idea of living in community at first. I had lived on my own for about six years, and the idea of moving in with a bunch of slobs didn’t appeal to me. Living in community sounded so, um, odd. Cults do that sort of thing, you know. First you live in community, and then you drink punch and die.
It was Rick’s idea, though, and he seemed fairly normal in all the other areas of his life. He never mentioned anything about a spaceship trailing behind a comet. He never asked us to store weapons or peanut butter, so I figured the thing about living in community was on the up-and-up. Just because something looks like a cult doesn’t mean it really is, right? The other thing is that, at the time, I was pushing thirty and still not married. When you are thirty and not married and you move in with a bunch of guys, you look like you have given up, like you are a bunch of losers who live together so you can talk about computers and share video games.
If I lived in community, we would have to have about five raging parties just to shake the loser image. But I am not one to party. I like going to bed at nine and watching CNN till I fall asleep. So I was thinking I could move in with the guys and we could tell everybody we had raging parties but never actually have them.
I didn’t know whether to make the move or not.
• • •
I moved in with five other guys about a month after talking with Rick. . . . I liked it at first. It was a big house, and I got the best room, the room with all the windows. My room literally had windows on every wall, about ten windows in all. It was like living in a greenhouse. I set my desk in front of the huge window that looked down on the traffic circle and the statue. My friends used to drive around the circle and honk when they went by. I always forgot I lived in a glass room so I would pull my finger out of my nose just in time to wave back. I went from living in complete isolation to living in a glass box on a busy street.
One of the best things about living in community was that I had brothers for the first time ever. . . . I have a picture on my desk of the six guys at Graceland, which is what we named the house. People thought we named the house Graceland because we wanted it to be a place where people experienced God’s grace and unconditional love. But we didn’t think about that till later. We really named it Graceland because that was the name of the house Elvis lived in, and, like Elvis, we were all pretty good with the ladies.
The picture on my desk is more than a picture of six guys; it is a picture of me in my transition, not a physical transition but more of an inner shift from one sort of thinking to another. I don’t look all that tired in the picture, but I remember being tired. I remember feeling tired for almost a year. I was tired because I wasn’t used to being around people all the time.
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