Picture this: the seven loudest people that you know. Four adults, three kids, and a mild-mannered dog. For seven weeks, our good friends, a family of four, lived with us while they were in transition. Their current house sold, but the new house wasn’t available for seven weeks. I’m calling this time in our life: Seven weeks of community.
Besides the fact that all seven of us are extremely loud and talkative, you’ve got to know that we aren’t related to this family. We’ve only known each other for six years. They were some of the first people to be friendly with us when we first moved back to our hometown. We felt like fish out of water after we returned from a tough two years on the mission field in West Africa. We were blind-sighted by the fact that we had reverse culture shock. We joined a new church where we didn’t know tons of people, and felt as if we were starting over in a whole new chapter of life. I distinctly remember the first time I visited with this couple. I was at a roller skating church event for the kids, and I was alone while my 3rd grader went around in circles. I remember trying to strike up conversations with a couple of other moms: Failure! I’m sure I was socially awkward, but didn’t realize it. I just felt so lonely, then this couple struck up conversation with me. They looked so genuinely happy and friendly and I love that they threw me a life-preserver when I felt like I was drowning in social awkwardness.
Fast forward to present. Lots of sleepovers for our teenaged girls, dinners, karaoke, Superbowls, New Year’s Eves, and throw in a couple of crisis situations when they were there to help us with hard decisions. You get the idea.
This fall our son headed to a dorm apartment for college, and the next weekend our friends moved in. It just made sense. Otherwise we’d have two empty bedrooms upstairs, and that seems like such a waste when our friends are in home limbo for a while.
Think about the good, bad, and ugly in your home that occurs on a daily basis. Imagine that you had cameras posted, out of view, to observe your family’s activities for seven weeks. A little scary, huh? Although our friends got to witness a few of our less-than-stellar family moments, it was worth it! I learned so much by having them here.
First of all, I believe that we are made to live in close community with others. American culture does not value community, but fierce independence, even when it’s to our detriment. That’s why so many people asked them (privately, of course) and us: How’s it really going? Isn’t is stressful? Our answer was: It’s surprisingly wonderful! We knew it would work out okay, but it surpassed our expectations. We need to lean on other people, and to learn from them. Sometimes this can only happen in close community. That’s because otherwise, we can fake it. We can act as if we have it all together, then go home and fall apart. If you go home and you’ve got another family there, you have witnesses! It turns out that this was a beautiful thing.
The last couple months have been the worst for me health-wise. If I’m honest I also confess that emotionally it’s been pretty rough, too, because of my health problems. However, the past seven weeks have been some of the richest for me on many different levels: friendship-wise, spiritually I have been challenged and grown, and I’ve been forced to show my vulnerability and need for others. If they hadn’t been here to witness it, I would have put on my brave happy face to the world because I’d be too proud to tell anyone I have been suffering.
Another benefit was that we learned from them while seeing their family interact. It’s amazing what you can learn watching a married couple as they do life, and it helped me to see how they love on their kids and parent them. We certainly didn’t have a spiral notebook out and plan to be creepy watchers, but we gleaned so much during the ups and downs of daily life. It was good!
Maybe you won’t have another family live in close quarters with you for a month or two, but you can intentionally connect closely with a couple of families that you trust. Be real, and show where you are weak and struggling. Celebrate daily joys and victories together. You’ll all be better for it. Plus it’s REALLY fun!