Emily Timbol

What I’ve Learned From Living in Community

Feb
27

This morning I looked at my calendar and realized something (other than what day it was.) March will be my last full month living in community. After Ryan and I’s wedding in April, I’ll be moving out of the shared house and moving into a small 3 bedroom, that we’ll lease for a year. It’s a bittersweet transition, as I’m incredibly excited to begin my life with my soon-to-be-husband, but (believe-it-or-not) sad to leave the home I’ve shared with 4-6 other people for the past fourteen months.

It’s hard to accept that much time has passed since the first night that I lied wide awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking, “Oh God, what have I done?”
I went back and re-read my excited, optimistic post from before I moved in, and my emotional, hard to write thoughts after a bitter and terrible fight with a former housemate, and was reminded me of how varied the experience was. So I thought I’d share some of the things I learned, from the past fourteen months.
  1. Community Works Best When Everyone is Equal
         The group that first moved into the house over a year ago has changed dramatically from what it is today. Save for me and the married couple who were part of the founding six, it’s a different house entirely. We’ve had three people move in since, and four people move out. Everyone, save one person, who lives, or has lived there, has been a Christian, with a full time job, and an active social life. The worst tension, and biggest conflicts that the house encountered, were centered around the differences in lifestyles between an employed housemate, and one without a job, who mostly hung around the house and stayed in their room. If you want to have a successful Community experience, it’s perfectly fine to have people of varying incomes, personalities, and backgrounds, but if the majority of you have one type of way of living, and one outlier doesn’t, it will inevitably cause conflicts.
   2.  Sharing Meals Is Essential

         Four nights a week most, if not everyone, in the house eats dinner together. We take turns cooking each night, and sit in the living room, eating, talking, and/or watching television together. Someone other than the person that cooked usually does the dishes, and it’s a great time for us to catch up on what’s going on in each others lives. There’s nothing magical about eating together, but there is something special about shopping, cooking, and serving a meal to people you care about. Likewise, there’s something very nice about being served a meal that was cooked for you, and being able to appreciate that person’s hard work. Since everyone in the house has such different schedules, it’s often these dinners that are the only time we  really have a chance to sit and talk with one another, other than a “hi” or “bye” in passing.
   3. It Won’t Be Exactly What You Imagined

       When we first started, I laid out the idea behind the house, and what our goal was, in my blog. 
 The… four of us are going to live in one common place, share meals, meet together, pray, and try to fill needs we see in the community. We are moving into a house right near the center of the neighborhood, and we want to make a presence… “
         A lot of what I imagined community living would be in that post came true. In the beginning, we had frequent meetings where we talked about what we wanted to house to be, and we prayed together and asked God to help us be a positive, normal Christian presence in the neighborhood. We started, and almost finished, an eight week book study on effective community living. Every month we held a house meeting, where we talked about what was working, and what we could do to improve. But that was the beginning. To be perfectly honest, what we thought we were going to do fourteen months ago – become a well known presence in the neighborhood, a mission house filled with normal people – never really happened. Yes, we had lots of potlucks, and backyard fires, and parties, where we made new friends and showed people how real Christians live life, but the house never really became “famous.” The book study never finished and the meetings became every other month, then every other other month, until they pretty much stopped. Yet, we still were living intentionally in Community, and we still were having deeper relationships with each other than you would with just a “roommate.” It didn’t really look like what we thought it would but yet…
    4. It Will Change You

      I am not the same person I was fourteen months ago. That’s due to a variety of reasons, my relationship with Ryan, my writing, and the very fact that you grow and change as you age. But a huge part of my growth was the house, and the things I learned from living in community. I’m a selfish person. I have anger issues. When things don’t meet my expectations I get really upset. All of those things I learned from living with other people, every day. And all of those things I can now see, admit to, and try to move past, thanks to the love and strength from my housemates. There were times when Melissa, one of the strongest women I know, would flat out tell me I was being unreasonable. The only way I was able to receive that, accept it, and not get hurt or angry, is because of the fact I had been living with her for months, and knew that I couldn’t hide my true character from her. Everything spoken to me the past year, was spoken within a relationship where I knew I was loved. It helps when the people offering correction are people that you know care about you. It makes it easier to hear. Yes, there is fear when you live in Community with people, that they will find out who you really are, and you won’t be able to hide. But there is also safety and security, when you discover that once those people found you out, they still love and care about you.
I’m so grateful for the past year, and the relationships I’ve made. I don’t doubt that had it not been for my housemates, especially Kevin and Melissa, I would not be where I am today, ready to embark on a huge life change. There’s no way I could have known back when they asked me to live with them, what I know now – that community living does more than just teach you about yourself – it prepares you to then go out, and affect others in the same way you were. I’m excited to be able to (at least try) to show Ryan that same love, grace, and selflessness that was shown to me over the past fourteen months.
So thank you Kevin, Melissa, Chris, Audra, Stephanie, Aaron, Caroline, and Paris – without you all, I wouldn’t be who I am right now.

One Response to What I’ve Learned From Living in Community

  1. I love this, Emily. I infrequently teach on the topic of Christian community at my church. I see a couple of ideas I can use/steal/be inspired by. 😉

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