“There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother [or sister] and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1939
When I began seminary in the fall of 2016, I swore I heard what I believed to be the voice of God say to me, “this community will heal you.” These words would come to me every time I was hanging out with my new graduate school friends and I actually thought I was going a little cuckoo crazy. I thought to myself well, this is peculiar since so many wonderful things were happening in my life: I had just graduated college and was beginning graduate school, I had just moved into a new apartment by myself, adopted a dog, bought a new car, and was dating the person who I thought I would marry. As the months progressed, much of that came crashing down and all that was left was me and my dog (shoutout to Wesley Asher—yes I did name my dog after John Wesley). And yet, those words would still resonate in my soul whenever I was with my new friends: “this community will heal you.”
Ok. Weird. But how? That guy and I broke up. My apartment situation was on the decline. My car was irreparable. School was lonely. But then, little by little, things began to move in a different direction.
One neighbor would send daily encouraging text messages. One neighbor would walk with me to and from classes. One neighbor would either loan me their car or accompany me on errands. One neighbor would bring me baked goods (a southern gal after my own southern heart). One neighbor would help take care of my dog. One neighbor would meet me on Saturday mornings in the library so I wouldn’t have to study alone. Day by day, I began to see how this community was healing me.
Friends, who is your community and what needs to be healed in your life?
Whether you realize it or not, we all need a little (or a lot) healing in our lives. Sometimes it is here and now. Other times, it is right around the corner. Or maybe a little bit of both. In the New Testament, there is a book called Acts. Presumably, it is written after Jesus the Christ ascends into heaven from earth and it recounts his disciples carrying out his mission: do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. In chapter 2, we are able to read about a strong sense of community amongst these people who share a common faith:
“43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceed to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” — Acts 2.43-47 (NRSV)
My new friends who I felt God telling me would heal me broke bread with me in my home. We would share furniture and swap textbooks or groceries. We would stay up late together encouraging whoever had yet to finish their final paper. My new friends became my family as we did real and messy life together.
In this season, I learned that healing takes many shapes and forms. I returned to counseling, and although that was great, it only covers one need. So, sometimes you need counseling. But sometimes healing looks like drinking beer, eating pizza, and playing 12 rounds of Quiplash until you’re all laughing so hard you’re going to pee your seminarian pants. Other times healing looks like a reunion a few years later at your own wedding dancing with your people and feeling the light and joy of life.
To my people who helped heal me through communion juice and beer, through exegesis and group chats, through doggy play dates and visits to a Jewish temple, through late night donut runs and early morning workout boot camps. I give thanks because this community did heal me.
In the words of Bonhoeffer, my community listened with the ears of God and spoke with the word of God to me. It came through scripture and it came through banana bread. May we be that for others in this world because, whether or not they intimately know God, life together in community brings healing.