Some mornings I lie in bed caught in that the half-awake-state that is so blissful and peaceful and I dream about a day with no interruptions. Not one all day.
A day where I can finish a thought without someone asking one of those mind sucking questions. What is for dinner? Where are my shoes? Do you remember what happened three years ago? How old was I when I lost my first tooth? What was the name of that dentist 14 years ago? Why are we out of toilet paper again? When did it last rain? Can we go get some ice cream now that we are done with breakfast?
I imagine a day where I am alone. No one in the house with me. I am the master of my 24 hours and get to choose what I want to do first. Then next. And then next.
No pressure to get breakfast on the table before the front door must bang shut. No clothes to wash so that someone has clean underwear. No calling of companies to be put on hold. No deadlines for projects looming close to the date cliff. No errands outside the house. No phones ringing with requests or bad news on the other end. No to-do list calling to be crossed off.
In this dream day, no make it a week, maybe even a month, the cupboards are stocked, the weather is just right, and I am shut off from the world until I want to initiate contact. I am well and full of energy, and I have enough time coming from my fingertips to even waste some. Then waste some more.
It would be so luxurious. Lovely. I smile and snuggle deeper into the covers.
Then my husband enters the room and asks when I am getting up.
My son bounds into the room, exuberance trailing from his pores, and he asks what I am making for dinner?
Dinner? I haven’t even figured out breakfast.
He chats about this and that and bounds back out.
I look around, and I am firmly glued into this community of family. This flow and ebb of life and its rhythms. This dependence on others and their dependence on me.
And that is good.
I may dream of being alone and having solitude for hours on end, but in the end, too much would not be good for me.
I was reading about a North African man, Anthony, from the third century, who is credited as one of the key founders of monastic communities. Desiring to grow spiritually and live a life of self-denial, he went and lived in a cave for twelve years. Obviously he was interrupted to many times, because to withdraw even further from life and its pleasures, he lived the next twenty years in an abandoned fort never seeing another human face. This was partly accomplished by having his food thrown over the wall. Eventually humans found him and once again interrupted his hermit life by wanting him to be their spiritual advisor and teach them to live like he was.
Now I don’t dream of being a hermit, for more than a few days, and maybe in a well- appointed hotel room with room service and a bed smothered in luxury sheets and down comforters. (Which I am sure Anthony would say would not be a life of self-denial as he slept on the floor in the cave.)
But frankly if I was a hermit for a year or two, I really don’t think I would grow very much. Physically or spiritually. How could I practice forgiveness of others and myself on a daily basis? There would be little opportunity to practice not getting angry at others. Patience and long suffering towards others would be pretty easy, as there would be no annoying questions or interruptions from other humans. The idea of extending grace to others would be a pretty easy concept and one I could cross off my to to-do list as practice would be nil and I would think I had accomplished this trait. There would be few opportunities to love others through self-sacrifice. Although love of myself would be easy to increase in.
It is living and breathing and working in communities that we grow. Really grow. Being deep in a community allows us to practice the fruits of the holy spirit and manners towards others. We learn how to live with and among others who are different than us in opinions, taste, personality, and habits.
Communities of families, work, friends, church, book clubs, gyms, organizations, and school provide us opportunities to tame our temper, curb our selfishness, practice our patience, and learn to love. They also provide us with so many blessings. Hope, encouragement, friendship, purpose, belonging, love, joy, laughter and relationships.
We are made to be in relationship with each other and God. Relationship involves rubbing elbows with others and annoying others and being irritated with others and hugging others and saying I am sorry to others. It always involves others.
I can’t image Anthony laughing much as a hermit. And if he did, it wouldn’t have been joined and mixed by another laugh answering and prompting more laughter.
So while I still dream about sneaking away to a luxury hotel for a few days of blissful alone time, I am thankful I am smack deep in the middle of community.
Join the Discussion: What are some benefits you see or experience by living in community with others?