Befriending the Other
Elizabeth Lent, CVV19 (pictured in pink)
Coming to the Midwest I expected to jump right into a new community. I had moved many times before and was generally good at the whole “making friends” thing. But it suddenly became harder after living intentionally with nine souls that intricately became connected with my own. Living in intentional community taught me that I could be fully known and still fully loved. Juggling graduate classes and an internship, while adjusting to a foreign place, I struggled transferring that experience to a new setting.
Feeling frustrated by my context, I put up walls. Partially because I didn’t feel secure without the safety net of a structured community and partially because I was surrounded by many individuals who didn’t share my value system or worldview. But as I hopped between masses at the student center, pick-up ultimate Frisbee, and quiet intimacy in Adoration all while maintaining phone calls and letters to friends back home, my concept of community grew.
Our society is clearly becoming more divided and with each insult to “the other” our community suffers. Almost every day while attending to internship responsibilities I cross over the Delmar Divide, a street known notoriously for segregating St. Louis by race and socioeconomic status. Facebook feeds and news stories are no better at engendering community than that superficial street. Sadly it is easier to demonize opposition in the social and political climate that has emerged these past six months. But by doing so, we fail to fully know “the other.”
In St. Louis I may not have a cohesive, intentional community—or even one core group of friends. And I continue to struggle finding respectful contexts to discuss challenging issues. But I do have an assortment of distinct individuals who know me and support me in many different ways. Though we don’t always have the same values or beliefs, we try hard to fully know each other, therefore becoming less scary and ever more loveable. Befriending “the others,” I have found brothers and sisters in Christ. The gift of such a community permits unity across differences and makes us stronger. It does not mean letting go of opposition, but being fully known in all of our oppositions, and still fully loved. Each day spent striving to recognize Christ in the other is a day spent building community.