Location: Hair Salon
Romans 15:30-33 (NIV)
"...so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.
(Rom. 15:32, NIV)."
After a long shelter in place period and having to miss my scheduled hair appointment, I was finally able to go get my haircut. It was great seeing my hairdresser, someone who I’ve known for 7 years (which is a long time for someone who moves around a lot). We commiserated together about how even though aging makes us more introverted each year, we still really wanted to see people during this time of forced separation and isolation.
This pandemic has opened our eyes to how much we want to be with people and how sometimes video conferencing just doesn’t cut it. This pandemic has forced many of us to unveil the pretense that we’re fine alone. We don’t need anyone. And this pretense is so understandable. Sometimes, people do really hurtful things and we’ve learned that we have to protect ourselves from steamrollers, users, and abusers for the safety of our selves and our self-worth.
And the truth is, no matter how introverted we are, how hurt we’ve been, or how annoying people can be, we were made to live in community with one another. Why? Because the source of our being is always in community with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our God is always in a mutually loving and perfect community, and we have a yearning to be in that perfect community, too.
Most of us have filled that yearning with a false sense of community, thinking we’ll feel it if we just constantly surround ourselves with people, if we fill our social media accounts with pictures of friends and good times, if we always have plans on Friday night. And even still, we have a deep yearning for the perfect community we were created to inhabit. And while we may not experience that perfect, mutually loving community until the Kingdom to come, we can have authentic community that refreshes and rejuvenates us today.
"...we can have authentic community that refreshes and rejuvenates us today."
Paul as he was writing to the church in Romans, asks for prayer as he’s about to embark in a difficult mission where he may face adversity. He’s honest about his fear that he’ll be confronted by those who don’t agree with him and could endanger his life (Rom 15:30-31). And it’s after he faces this struggle and challenging situation that he says he will come to be in community with the Romans to be rested and refreshed.
True, refreshing community comes from those who know our struggles. That means, like Paul, we have to be open about our difficulties with one another. We need to summon the courage of vulnerability to tell others when we’re afraid, when we’re hurt, and when we’re not OK. It means we have to bring down the walls of having to look strong and put together and share the real pain and losses of life.
And one interesting thing to note in the context of this scripture passage, is that Paul is writing to a church he’s never met before(1). Yet, he still knows he will be refreshed in their company. How can he be sure he’ll be refreshed by people he’s never met? Surely he doesn’t know all the ins and the outs of this group’s drama. He doesn’t know who’s saving seats at the potluck or who’s talking behind so-and-so’s back. But no matter the brokenness that is inevitably present in any group of people here on earth, Paul knows he’ll be refreshed by their company because they share the same hope. When we live in authentic community with one another, holding each other’s pain and hurt, we also hold on to the hope that anything and everything can be redeemed for good.
And this hope doesn’t mean that we gloss over each other’s pain or belittle what someone’s going through. Horrific things do happen and we need to acknowledge that. What hope does mean is that we are not left to the darkness of despair. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter the situation, no matter how difficult the circumstance, no matter how painful it feels.
And as we live through these experiences with one another, sharing in challenges and grasping on to hope, we’ll catch a glimpse of the perfect community to come.
Let’s pray. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who dance together in perfect love, unity, and community, thank you for creating us to live in community. Help us to be vulnerable with one another, sharing in our challenges and holding on to your sustaining hope. Help us to be refreshed and rejuvenated by one another until you bring us home. Amen.
(1) Powell, Mark Allan. “Romans” in Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey, Second Edition. 271. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.
by Erica Smith
Nature noticer, contemplative wannabe, coffee drinker, wine taster, and novice painter.