Community, pt. 1: Learning to Slow Down

In the last 30 days, I have been spending relational capital in a very careless way.  This is ironic, because it has taken me in a different direction for how I planned on blogging about community.  I had planned on writing first about the idea and importance of proximity and relocation, and while I believe those elements are important, I have learned deeply this month, the importance of living at a slower pace may need to be addressed first.

My name is Matthew Hansen, and I am addicted to speed.  I have come to believe that part of this is due to idolatry and insecurity – whatever idols I have, they are connected to living a fast pace life.  In the last 3 days I have let down a minimum of three people (this includes hurting a very loyal friend) and a lot of it can all be boiled down to me not slowing down enough to ask two questions: (1) who does this decision affect and how?  (2) not thinking before I speak.  Seems simple enough, but when you live at a speed that we were not made to live at we should expect it to catch up with us.

As it is with me, I wonder, if the greatest enemy to community is not lack of proximity, but the speed at which we live.  The thing is, I often pontificate the idea, that the way church is structured, actually fights against real biblical discipleship and community.  That said, when I look at my life, I see that my life reflects the very thing I hate about the church, as the structure of my life also fights against true discipleship and community – namely, I live to fast for it!

I was listening to Richard Dawkins the other day and he said something to the affect that he does not believe that people actually believe in God, rather he believes people believe in the idea of believing in God, and that this idea is reflected  in the reality that the majority of us live lives that do not reflect faith in or dependency on God, but faith in self and circumstances, and simple sentiments toward God – he makes a strong point.  While I often think Dawkins is the Paul and Jan Crouch of Atheism, he makes a really good point in that statement, not just that, but the principle he makes should be a magnifying glass we look through to view our own lives.

The idea of community is being in and on pilgrimage together with a diverse group of people.  The question is, do we truly believe in doing community, or do we simply believe in the picturesque idea of doing community?  Do we settle for the idea, so that we don’t have to slow down and actually do it?  Do we settle for the idea so we don’t have to enter enter into healthy dependent and transparent relationships with others?  Do we settle for the idea because it doesn’t cost us the idols we have found our identity in?  I think, yes… I think we, me specifically, believe in the idea of living the lives of those who truly live in community, but we don’t believe in actually doing it, because it would simply demand we slow down.

In the book, Reconciling All Things, we read, “The practice of pilgrimage is a way of unlearning speed…Pilgrimage is a posture very different from mission.  The goal of a pilgrim is not to solve but to search, not so much to help as to be present.  Pilgrims do not rush to a goal, but slow down to hear the crying.  They are not as interested in making a difference as they are in making a new friend.  The pace is slower, more reflective.  Pilgrims set out not so much to assist strangers but to eat with them.”

I’m reading a book called, Compassion: A Reflection of Christian Living and ironically I am in the section that talks about community, building community, being part of community, and defining community, etc, etc; and there’s this quote that really hit me between the eyes, “The main question is, ‘How can I come to understand and experience God’s caring actions in the concrete situations I find myself?’  In other words, ‘where have I already been asked to leave my father and mother; where have I already been invited to let the dead bury the dead; where am I already challenged to keep my hand on the plow and not look back?’  God is always active in our lives always calling, always asking us to take up our crosses and follow.  However, do we see feel, and recognize God’s call in the now, or do we keep waiting for the illusory moment when it will ‘really’ happen?” And I will add, do we keep rushing into the future at the expense of others hoping to make it happen, when it is already happening all around us?

My point is simply, for those of us longing to live in community, maybe we need to slow down first.  Maybe slowing down needs to come before relocation – maybe, I’m not sure that is right, but what I know is that living 3, 5, 10, or even 20 miles from someone doesn’t hurt them, however, living at my speed of life is catching up with me and is hurting others.  It doesn’t seem that the equation for building community should include a speed of living that actually hurts the community you already live in and have.  It seems the way of the kingdom is so counter intuitive to the way of this “A-Type Personality” of mine that loves to initiate.  It seems the way of the kingdom and communities formed out of that kingdom, is not about initiation but about reaction.  It seems the way God builds communities within this world through his kingdom is to open the eyes of his people to see where and how he is already bringing his kingdom near, and react to that by forming community in what is already happening.

To quote again from the book, Reconciling All Things:

Learning to become faithful pilgrims amid the brokenness of this world is about becoming more Christian.  A Rwandan proverb says, ‘To go fast, walk alone.  To go far, walk together.’ When we learn how to slow down to make room for walking together across divides, we become more Christian.”

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5 thoughts on “Community, pt. 1: Learning to Slow Down

  1. I wonder if “slowing down” reflects global theology/thinking? Also, how much is proximity vital? Our partners in Haiti are incredibly busy, high-stressed and they have so much responsibility compared to me. Yet, they seem to have a pace, flow, or rhythm that makes sense for them? Is that because they still have a “village” feel, maybe? They see their friends and do community within a connected culture… not once a week at small group?

    I just try to see theology through a global lens, and not necessarily my own American lens. Yet, I’m often tired, stressed and overwhelmed — which stinks 🙂

    When you figure this out, please let me know! 🙂

  2. I agree. It’s all I can do to sit still and have a conversation of any length, especially without glancing at my iPhone. I read something recently that we actually get a shot of dopamine when we hear/feel the alert that a text message or other alert has come in. We become addicted to it. I remember, when I was a kid, the grown-ups sitting around on the front porch (or wherever) and just talking for hours. I can’t imagine doing that myself. Maybe we need to lose some of the technology and urgency and just slow down.

  3. Pingback: Community, pt2: Proximity « Emmaus Life

  4. Pingback: Community, pt. 3 – Where You Already Are « Emmaus Life

  5. Pingback: Year End / Year Beginning « Emmaus Life

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