When I first signed up to serve as a YAV, I really felt that this would be an incredible opportunity for me to spend a year doing something completely different with my life. Now, my year is beginning to draw to a close, and I am realizing more and more that what I have been learning and doing this year is not simply a year-long project that I will look back on with fond memories, but rather a stepping stone to beginning the life I truly want to live.
This year has been uncomfortable in many different ways. I moved into a house with five strangers (and four of them guys!) and was instructed to share my life with them. Together, the six of us share one car, about $80 a week for house groceries, living space and work together to run the community house where we live.
I’ve had roommates before and I love them all deeply, but I have never been challenged to share my life so intimately with others. We all come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives on politics, budgets, eating habits, cleanliness, disciplining methods, communication, God… (just to name a few). We work high stress jobs and live on a shoestring budget; we’ve gotten to see each other at our bests and worsts. You can’t fake it all the time or hide from people you share so much with.
I had never spent quite so much time with the same people… and it has been really hard for me. When the year started, I would daydream about having an apartment all to myself when the year ended. I’m not exactly sure when the change occurred, but my perspective has shifted. The house feels oddly empty when no one else is home. The house can even seem quiet with all six of us without the two or three house guests who always seem to be around.
I’ve also had incredible opportunities to build deep relationships with people outside of my house in LA, most notably the women in my small group Bible study. Each week the women pray for one another. We don’t just pray surface level prayers and joys, but we have begun to open up to each other about our fears, doubts, pains and mistakes. We lift one another up, text and e-mail updates, meet for coffee and fellowship. We have come to share one another’s burdens. I have never been involved in a Bible study group so intentional. Sometimes though, it’s really hard and uncomfortable. You open up and later wish you hadn’t. You wish you could have just held everything in… been composed. Yet, I really don’t think that is a true model of life. Life is messy. We all fall apart from time to time. To deny doubt and pain is putting on a front or showing others a lie. Sometimes opening up can help others feel better about their own pain.No one wants to be the only one suffering in a room full of people with perfect lives. And no one ever is.
This past weekend we had an incredible opportunity to help friends prepare for a major life change. They asked us to come over to their home and help them prepare to move. It was such a beautiful day for me. It was the first time I had been in their house when it wasn’t spotless and everyone perfectly composed. There were some dishes in the sink and toys on the floor. They were stressed, tired, and on one another’s nerves. They may not have wanted us to see them in the state, but I felt incredibly blessed to be there. I love that they felt comfortable enough and trusted us enough to share their stress with us. I don’t feel that Christianity means not having drama, pain or conflict, but rather Christianity is demonstrated in the way we respond to these universally experienced emotions.
Everyone has pain and struggles. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has quirks. The beauty is in sharing them with others and building relationships. We are not called to walk alone but to share our lives with one another. I am blessed to have had this year to begin to learn how to truly open up my life and love others. Now, I need to take what I am beginning to learn and step forward to create a community of love, openness and vulnerability, wherever I go next.