By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHCA, Bellevue Christian Counseling
What is life supposed to be like? We carry on with the business of living and with our day to day activities. But is there a normal pattern for our lives? Can we speak of a design? What are the elements that make up our lives, and how can we tell if these are generally in place? Moreover, what is supposed to be going on here anyway? If you haven’t asked these questions in some form or other, then perhaps there is nothing missing. Or perhaps you simply haven’t noticed. Either way, as a Christian counselor, I feel that taking a short and impartial inventory might be worth your time.
Evaluating your sense of purpose and satisfaction is the first important step toward determining what areas of your life you would like to change. By taking stock of the larger narrative of our lives, we can discover the smaller areas that leave us longing for something more. Over the next two articles, I will be looking at the concept of personal growth—how we can improve our lives by seeking to understand the “big picture.” In particular, I would like to explore with you what it means to live in community with others, and how relationships can challenge and support us as we seek to grow and change in godly, healthy ways.
Our Need for Community
People have an inbuilt need for community. We feel this instinctively and yet our culture today is one of isolation. Until about a hundred years ago, or perhaps less, we didn’t commonly uproot ourselves, leave our kin and childhood home, and move across the country because our job relocated us. Now we have become experts at it, and all that is left behind is expendable. Friends that you grew up with are no longer there. Your mom and dad, brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins, the teachers that knew you, the store clerks that sold you candy, the place you went on a walk with your first sweetheart … all these things are no longer accessible. It is hardly surprising that something seems to be missing from your life in this city where you don’t know anyone.
God’s Design for Community
God’s design for community is not the city as we know it, but the Church. This is a gathering place that’s bigger than your family— a place where you celebrate and commune with others, and where “everyone knows your name.” In the absence of this church community, we find substitutes in bars, clubs, special interest groups, and, for others, gangs.
In the Early Church, the taking of Communion was the ultimate statement that distinguished the Church as a community. It meant that this community cut across all barriers, including socio-economic, racial or age barriers, as well as those of physical stature, rank, status or gender.1. It was a shocking counter to the Greek world in which any association or fellowship was based on and defined by these very barriers. Such barriers also dominate the “substitutes” for real community that I mentioned above, which is one reason why these do not ultimately satisfy us or engender wholeness and health.
Christian Counseling for Personal GrowthIn my next article, I will be looking more closely at how our core relationships form the foundation of a community that challenges each member to grow and live in generosity and godly love. Christian counseling is a great opportunity to take stock of your life and discern what you want in your relationships with others. Learning to live in community is hard—our relationships challenge us to grow, change, and live generously. A Christian counselor can help you make sense of this process, and together we can direct you toward lasting, loving community that engenders healing and personal growth.
1. John D. Zizioulas. Being As Communion, pp.152-3.
Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by photostock: Happy family having fun and grandparents having picnic.
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