What I hate about community:
- It takes me away from getting stuff done, and I value getting stuff done.
- I struggle with social anxiety, and I get uptight around people. Watching shows like Downton Abbey gives me community vicariously—all of the warmth, none of the anxiety.
- I forget people’s names, and I feel horrible about forgetting, feel humiliated to ask, and feel weary of coming up with phrases that require only personal pronouns.
- I feel more sinful around other people. Thoughts of comparison or judgment—I hate this about myself, and I hate confronting this about myself, and I don’t have to when no one else is around.
- When I leave a social gathering, I inevitably run through every stupid thing I said (and I’m an extrovert, so there’s a lot to run through).
- I don’t like navigating people’s personal doctrinal commitments. Should I have mentioned a rapture? It’s exhausting dancing around people’s toes.
I’ll stop there, but I could keep going. These dark and murky ruminations would lead me away from involvement in church or Bible study or any community. But it hasn’t, and I think it’s because I have free will.
Free will is typically understood in terms of the power to act. Do we simply act according to the strongest motive? Do we have the power to act other than how we acted? Ignore all that. Far more important than the freedom to act is the freedom to form the intention to act. (That sounds more complicated than it is.)
Imagine you are a recovering alcoholic and someone offers you a drink. Immediately you’re barraged with competing desires, memories, beliefs, feelings, and the like. You experience the belief that you could have a drink and be just fine, and you experience the belief that you could not. You remember how fun it was to drink, and you remember how fun it wasn’t. What you immediately recognize is that you have a choice—but not about drinking, not yet anyway. The choice is which desire you’ll fortify with additional reasons, memories, Scripture, prayer, and so on. Whatever our freedom to act, we surely have the freedom to form intention. We choose which truth to “weight,” and Scripture has told us it’s this truth here:
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24–25, NIV
So whatever your three, five, or seven reasons are, they’ll pop up with every opportunity and invitation to “meet together” with other believers. Can’t change that. But you can pay them no heed. Let them dance partner-less around your mind. Give them no audience. Choose instead to believe, obey, and be in community.
You’ve been reading from Watch: Wide Awake Faith in a World Fast Asleep. Author Rick James dives deep into the New Testament’s teachings on spiritual wakefulness, calling Christ-followers to defy the darkness and remain awake as they await Christ’s return. Because being spiritually awake changes everything.