My Individualistic Approach to Community

For the past three years, almost everybody I know has been living, breathing, building, destroying, and building again this concept of community. It has been the single messiest, loveliest journey I have ever witnessed and participated in. I am blessed to be surrounded by people willing to brave the scary parts of relationship. We’ve gone places, walked through grief, pulled apart, stitched ourselves together again,   Read More »

Confessions of an ENFP

Good morning beautiful Monday! Today I return to the world of probabilities, rhetoric and packed lunches, and my slightly exaggerated week of alone time finally comes to a close. I have never been so relieved to drive down to the Sacramento airport and fetch a friend back into my life. Missions trip week and spring break scattered my roommates and friends across the globe, leaving me talking to the stray cat we feed, striking up conversations with strangers in the store, and teaching myself how to make coffee, despite the fact that I’m not a coffee drinker (unless the cup is overwhelmed with creamer and sweeteners).

I have been having a fascinating time coming up with ways to amuse myself—mainly ways to stay out of the house. On day one, I managed to eat all three of my meals in different outdoor locations. The ideas are not the problem; convincing myself that they’re worth following through on alone is the problem. Creativity isn’t quite as fun unless it’s shared. But I resolved that I was not going to mope around in my empty house. After a few tears (yes, I cried), I thought to myself, “good grief Amy! You have a life! Please enjoy it, even if it’s all by yourself!” I think I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this—just me.

Life has an uncanny way of giving us unavoidable situations in which to deal with things we would otherwise sweep into the “uncomfortable” pile. There are some things we only look at squarely when we have to, and the topic of being an individual is one of those issues for me. I am one too easily defined by the people I hold closest. I love adapting and getting to know what brings others joy. But sometimes, I become so caught up in all this that I forget what it looks like just to be myself. Then, when everybody goes away, it’s like I left too. It’s uncomfortable, not just because I sincerely prefer to live life with other people, but because I forget how to live pure and simply as me, without having others around to shape what that looks like.

I read once people with my personality (ENFP) can “get into another person’s shoes and identify with that individual’s thoughts and feelings so readily, they run the risk of virtually losing their own identity.” Awesome. And yes, I run into that problem from time to time! To compensate, I find myself constantly scanning the world I share with those around me, looking for the pieces I bring into it, because those are the pieces that are mine; those pieces are me. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing these pieces on my own. What may seem obvious to others is completely lost to my eyes, and I am definitely guilty of relying on the feedback of others to help me find them. Because of this, I have always been curious as to whether all us ENFPs share a common need for the Words of Affirmation Love Language. It’s like each of those words adds one more dot in a dot-to-dot drawing I am trying to piece together.

Being alone can be a terrifying thing. If you lose all the other people, even for a week, you lose all the little landmarks that help you make sense of what is defined as “your life”. You are forced to be an individual, and in the case of a confessing ENFP, discover how little you know about being one.

Henri Nouwen, an author who challenges the way I think says, “our solitude roots us in our own hearts,” and that “solitude always strengthens community.” I didn’t like him very much when I first read those words. Those words were true, and I disliked him putting me in a spot to accept it.

So much of what I value is coming together, sharing life, and practicing community. But can I truly be me in the context of others, if I cannot be me by myself? It seems counterintuitive that to do this “being together” well, I have to step away and stand alone. I walk a continual journey in discovering that there is no “us” without a “me” and a “you.” There is no community without individuals. Only from a place where I am myself, can I then bring the free gift of who I am to those around me. I get to bring me without the grey of demands. You can only give gifts if you know what you have to give away. In as much as I need the people around me, they need me to be me. And sometimes to do this, I need to walk a mile in my own shoes.

Beautiful Chaos

My journey in community has largely dominated the past year or more of my life, and it has been the thing for which I have needed the most courage. You would think that my decision to move my home across the world would have been the greater challenge. But no. If you want to test the bravery of your heart, take a journey deep into community.

I am convinced that it is in the context of relationship that God builds our strengths, works on our weaknesses, brings us to face our fears, and heals our hurts. There is this inseparable interaction between your development, and the development of those around you. You cannot separate your own needs and insecurities from another’s brokenness and limited capacity to give. Here where I find my own pain, I also find yours. Here, community can look like a chaotic explosion, where my brokenness reacts to the brokenness of those around me. It is a place where things I perhaps never would have found begin to surface.

I’ve cried more tears than I would want anybody to see, I’ve had more emotional drama than I care to admit, and fears and insecurities continue to arise where I thought I had finally snubbed them out. But it is worth every single ounce of discomfort. I would walk it all again just to be where I am today. Sometimes I get caught up in the quagmire of it all, and the pain of process gives me the temporary sense that I want to go back. It’s not always everything that I want it to be and it involves millions of things I would rather not face. It can be messy until it hurts, and painful till it makes you angry. But walked with the grace of God, it can bring healing. I am slowly realizing that God is quite fond of pairing up these messy, chemical reactions. They are His way of bringing redemption. He will not bring us to wholeness outside of connection to His body. We are all in need of healing, and it’s His plan to have us be a part of that journey for each other. This right here, is the beautiful chaos of community.