family, and continual piercing

Posted: November 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

In my time living at Jesus People USA (JPUSA), I was often asked by others living there how I had come to be there and how long I intended to stay.  Each time I did my best to tell my story.  Each time, I announced my intention to never leave. 

Most times, my intention was met with skepticism.  Kind, loving, friendly skepticism – no one was ever even a tiny bit mean with the doubt.  Still, skepticism.  “You’re new,” was one of the responses I grew used to hearing, along with other very nice versions of, “We’ll see about that.” 

I was tempted to be irritated or offended by the doubt – after all, my intention was real, sincere, and 100% true.  I had told my parents, my kids, and anyone else who was asking that I intended JPUSA to be my final home – that I would grow old, retire, and probably die there, God permitting (I always had to leave that “God permitting” bit in there, having lived long enough to understand that He drives and I don’t, and never having heard any promise from Him that I was done moving forever.)  My kids and I had even joked about them bringing future grandchildren and great-grandchildren to visit “crazy hippie granny in Chicago” (“Whatever you do, don’t look directly into her eyes!”) 

But I was not VERY tempted to take offense.  After all, I had been checking the place out for YEARS before I moved in. I knew that people came and went.  I knew they had solid reasons for their skepticism.  And their skepticism turned out to be well-founded with me – though I never changed MY mind, God had another plan.  I obeyed (and moved back to where I had come from) because I had already test driven the not-obeying way extensively, and was tired of its consequences. 

I thought of all of that this past weekend, while we were visiting there.  Others have moved on since I left, and of course my Gary was one of them.  Here’s what I love about that community – there is no grudge about the leaving.  I was sent out with many blessings, and so was Gary.  When someone leaves, they are honored and prayed for and often get a party.  They are remembered and spoken of and welcomed home for visits or any other level of return. 

While we were there visiting, other friends who have also left were also there visiting.  We were not a separate pocket, tucked away from the folks still living on the premises.  We were greeted with shouts and hugs and questions and smiles and stories and shared time and smiles.  This is a way that JPUSA functions as real community – as actual FAMILY.  Your natural family doesn’t cease to become your family when you move out of your parents’ home, eh?  Same here. 

Here’s another fun part of that:  In the two years since I left, I have met and made friends with several JPUSA folks who were not yet there when I left.  They are newer members of the family.  I never lived with them, ever.  We never had time to hang out in each other’s rooms.  Still, they are real friends and I am so tickled to end up at a breakfast table with them, catching up.  THAT is like natural family too, eh?  You get a new sister-in-law and she’s your family.  It doesn’t matter that you didn’t ever live together. 

Still, I know the constant leaving has to be hard.  On one of my last visits there before we got married, I roomed with a young lady who grew up there in the JPUSA house.  We talked late into the night about the strange dynamic of the core families who are planted and stick around for decade after decade, all in the same walls as the wave after wave of temporary inhabitants, for whom JPUSA is just a season. 

I thought this past Sunday, as I considered it all, that it must be a kind of constant piercing of the heart, all of us folks who appear and then move on.  I understood better this time, I think, than I have in the past, why some folks were slow and cautious in warming to a more intensified attachment.  I understood better that the skepticism wasn’t just a mental arrangement of thoughts and beliefs, but rather a thing shot through with a sort of “emotional risk management” need. 

The week I was leaving, one of my closer friends inquired of me, “Do you really mean it when you say you are coming back to visit?” 

“Yes, of course!” I replied.  I cannot imagine ever NOT visiting, after having given my heart to that place so completely. 

I saw that she believed me.  “Then on your moving day, we will not say goodbye.  Maybe I won’t even see you that day.  Let’s just say, ‘See you later.’  Because I WILL see you later.”  She didn’t want to do yet another emotional goodbye scene.  I loved her approach and I still think of it often.

That friend, too, has moved on since I left, to a different intentional community in another city.  I saw her the week before she left.  I meant to say goodbye to her, but in the end, in a fit of emotion, I just fled.  Now it was MY turn to be not up for another goodbye. 

I pray for her, as I pray for ALL of my JPUSA family, that their hearts will not grow weary or jaded with all of the goodbyes, or the see you laters.  That the continual piercing will be worked out by God to somehow be a blessing and not a curse.  That they will be given the grace to continue holding one another, and all the one anothers that have come and gone, tenderly in their generous hearts. 

That will require bravery and grace.  He’s got enough to go around. 

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