In Light of Community

The Flame Burns Brightest

A dear friend of mine will often ask men, “Who is your 4:00 a.m. guy?”.  Who in your life can you call any time, day or night, and know that there will be a lifeline on the other end? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Do you know the answer?

Community. I have spent the better part of my life wondering what this word even means. Community comes from the Latin communitatem meaning ‘fellowship, community of relations or feelings’.

Much of my younger understanding and experience of community was a group comprised of friends posing and full of pretense, desperately trying to be someone or something they were not – myself included. And yet I never had the sense that all was well with this sort of carrying on. There was a list of do’s and don’ts that came with this particular community and I judged I could never completely be myself, saying what I needed to say or expressing what I was actually feeling. I found myself always leaving the table of this community very hungry and never filled.

It has only been within the last decade that this idea of community has become a little less abstruse. Much of my present understanding of community has come with my willingness to step out in search of what I dared to believe was true and necessary to forge ahead in the uncharted waters of life. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, from The Fellowship of the Ring, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door… You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

But along the way this halfling-hero found companions. A fellowship was forged – a community of men who were willing to protect and even die for each other. And even more than that – they talked, sang, laughed, wept, broke bread together, drank wine and ale, shared stories, and expressed their fears, joys and sorrows, conversing around the fire long into the night.

They were willing to die for each other because they were willing to live for each other!

This evening I sat around a Great Table with dear friends; men and women that trust me and in whom I trust. Men and women who know and love me, and that have given me the honor of knowing and loving them. There was music playing, and wine flowing, and food and story. There was laughter and joy and there were sober, serious, hushed, and holy moments.

Community is not just a wonderful group of characters against the backdrop of a well-developed plot; just fancy words on a page where you can lose yourself for several hours. Community, fellowship, friendship is all around us if we are willing to hope, and risk, and fail, and strive.  When we are willing to let our walls down long enough to be seen for who we are and not what we can do, we will finally begin to pass over the threshold of community.

Each of us is a small flame – alone, burning in the all-consuming darkness. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome It. The flame burns brightest in the Light of Community. Be known.

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, MMFT – April 16, 2011

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