Community. It’s something we all crave and desire in our lives. We’re always talking about it, always searching for it; and yet, I think, always avoiding it. Sure, we want the community – the sharing, the group hugs, the supporting shoulders – but are we willing to work for it? Well, we need to be, because community is hard, and it’s real, and it involves constant sacrifice. The development of our community in the fellows program has been simultaneously the most incredibly difficult, yet the most profoundly rewarding aspect of this year. Together, we have been learning how to move authentically towards one another in love. It is a move that rejects the fear and insecurity we carry inside catapulting us into the struggle, pain and joy of one another’s lives.
Personally, this has been so very hard. Throughout the year I have been reluctant to move into places of vulnerability, instead hiding from those who have come to know my story best. To be sure, I have grown; but at times it has felt like taking two steps forward and one step back.
As we are learning to walk together in love as a Fellows community, each week the guy Fellows gather to work out how to love one another specifically as men, brother-to-brother. Two older, wiser men guide us, and insist that our communal growth requires commitment, to each other and to the Kingdom of God. For hours each week we listen to one another’s stories, struggling at times to understand how to put off the sin that so easily entangles, and run with our brothers in the midst of difficulty. This has been a time, amid all the business and the fun, to abide and be revived. We gather in order to enter into deep solidarity with one another and bear one another’s burdens – the sowing of seeds and the tilling of good soil that good fruit may grow strong in our community.
In order for community to flourish, we have had to learn reject our desire to hide and blame one another. We must instead turn outward, face our brothers, name the work of God in each other’s stories, and bless them with intimate knowledge. This is difficult, in both opening up our own stories and entering into another’s. But, my friends hear me: this is how we must love, this is how we build authentic community, and this is how we know our God.
Jonathan Coopersmith-Grove City College