Living in community made me realize one of my faults: I was addicted to myself. All I thought about was myself. The only thing I really cared about was myself. I had very little concept of love, altruism, or sacrifice. I discovered that my mind is like a radio that picks up only one station, the one that plays me: K-DON, all Don, all the time…

The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me. God brought me to Graceland to rid me of this deception, to scrub it out of the gray matter of my mind. It was a frustrating and painful experience.

I hear addicts talk about the shakes and panic attacks and the highs and lows of resisting their habit, and to some degree I understand them because I have had habits of my own, but no drug is so powerful as the drug of self. No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction.

– Donald Miller, from his chapter on Community: Living with Freaks

Don’s got a pretty awesome understanding of community living.   I mean Godly, true, glorifying community.  He writes about it a ton in both of his books Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What, and I really enjoy his perspective.  It’s sweetly Biblical, and he always has a relational application about things.  Which is fantastic since Christianity is all about relationships, with God Himself and with other people, so it makes sense that such a pivotal part of our growth as persons would be so influenced by relationships.  This week I’ve learned that it just isn’t all about me, that my perspective or thinking does not always extend to the people I’m surrounded by, and to assume otherwise is ignorant and definitely not relational.  How can I have flourishing relationships in a community when I feel like the others’ views are moot or not important for me to even try to understand?  When I get that way, and I’ll be honest, it’s quite a lot, my relationship with that person hits a major roadblock, and where can we grow from there?  We can’t.

As I get to know the guys, I understand their perspective a little better, which means more meaningful listening on my part and more discourse rather than argumentative roundabouts.  I understand more what makes them tick, how their past has affected that, what they’re searching for, where their brokenness lies and what their strengths are.  Knowing more about them and them about me helps to shape us as a unique community, and I’m beginning to see that more.  That said, I did promise in my last post an update on the week, so here ’tis.

One of our members decided to go home, leaving us for his family in Arizona on Friday morning. He was having a rough time at his placement, like I have, and really felt that he wasn’t supposed to be here in the program. I think he expected the program to deliver certain things or provide for him in certain ways, and when it didn’t, he was overwhelmed it seems, every night, with discouragement.   He’d come into the program with anxiety and depression already.  I’d talked to him about it a few times, and each time we ended up arguing, my encouragements not really getting through, our discussions about it just digging a greater chasm between us.  I tried to encourage him the way I know how, relating to him in my similar experiences, offering Biblical Truths to help give him perspective.  But he wasn’t having it.  What I thought was a pretty decent cheering session turned into a big mess, and right while I was trying to talk him into frolicking, he stopped me and hit a low, verbal blow.  He said that he just couldn’t be encouraged by me because we have too different philosophies and he just didn’t think that way.  Of course, rather than listen to what he was saying, I was too busy feeling hurt, embarrassed and indignant.  How could he not be encouraged by that?  I just patted him on the back with grade-A material.  He won’t even acknowledge how nice I am for trying to lift him up.  What a jerk. Yep, that is basically a play-by-play of what scrolled through my head right at that point of rejection.  I was pretty conceited and self-centered, and rather than open my ears further to what he had to say, I pressed my point.  On and on.  He rebutted and I would force more ‘encouragment’ down his throat.  It was one of those terrible passive aggressive, talking duels where we were both pretty mad at each other but weren’t being explicit about how we were each hurt by the other.  I felt he was being obnoxiously close-minded and I’m pretty sure he felt the same about me.  I think it severed any last threads that were hanging between us… well maybe not, since the week that spanned between our conversation and his leaving proved to heal our relationship if even a bit, both of us just avoiding topics we knew would send us flying.  At our last meeting – and by that point I had done about 80% more listening to him than I had the first month – I told him simply that we wanted him to know that we cared about him, that we loved him, and wanted him to follow wherever God leads him, even if it took him out of our community forever.  I think he appreciated the sentiment.

We miss him and can definitely feel his absence.  But we’ve taken this opportunity and kick-started our own development; we finalized our covenant and are framing it to hang on the wall next Monday, and we are preparing to tell our stories at the next few community meetings.  We are already closer, and that is a wonderful thing.