Sam has a passion for bumper cars, as do I! Part of the fun is steering fast over the floor and making tight circles like balletic pirouettes and sliding by the corner without getting stuck. Then there is the special delight in getting bumped or being able to bump another car.
During Sam’s visit, he went five times to two different amusement parks to drive the bumper cars. Once, we went in the morning to the little amusement park up the street from us [appropriately called ‘Mini Park’]. The park was empty and though it was nice to have the place to ourselves, it also felt a bit desolate. When it came time to do the bumper cars, there were just Sam and his mom. They enjoyed it but the experience lacked the thrill of zipping around a swirling mass of cars.
Bumper cars are like following Jesus–we’re not meant to do it by ourselves. For the full experience, we need other people around us. I’ve been reflecting this week on the quote below by Basil the Great about being in community. It’s challenged me, particularly since I’m a strong natural introvert. But over the last few months, the truth of this has come home to me again and again.
To follow Jesus, I need to be around people. It’s not a solo activity. Fortunately, I have plenty of opportunity to grow in this grace since I don’t live by myself. One person, even a dear spouse, can be the Potter’s tool as He shapes my lump of clay. One small neighborhood, one extended family, one church, one city traffic jam, one crowded grocery store…all arenas where I bump up against other people and face the choice of imitating Jesus again.
Community life offers more blessings than can be fully and easily enumerated. It is more advantageous than the solitary life both for preserving the goods bestowed on us by God and for warding off the external attacks of the Enemy. . . .
Wherein will [the solitary] show his humility, if there is no one with whom he may compare and so confirm his own greater humility? Wherein will he give evidence of his compassion, if he has cut himself off from association with other persons? And how will he exercise himself in long-suffering, if no one contradicts his wishes?
If anyone says that the teaching of the Holy Scripture is sufficient for the amendment of his or [her] ways, they resemble a person who learns carpentry without ever actually doing a carpenter’s work or a person who is instructed in metal-working but will not reduce theory to practice. . . .
Consider, further, that the Lord by reason of His excessive love for humanity was not content with merely teaching the word, but, so as to transmit to us clearly and exactly the example of humility in the perfection of love, girded Himself and washed the feet of the disciples. Whom, therefore will you wash? . . .
So it is an area for combat, a good path of progress, continual discipline, and a practicing of the Lord’s commandment, when Christians dwell together in community.
From “The Long Rules” by Basil the Great, translated by Sister M. Monica Wagner.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.