I’m obsessed. I didn’t intend to get obsessed; it just happened. Well, it “just” happened one night when I got bored. I was channel surfing and stumbled across a show called, Who Do You Think You Are? It’s a genealogy program that traces the family history of different Hollywood celebrities during each episode. Somehow while watching personal stories morph into stunning, real-life, historical tragedies and triumphs, I got hooked.
When the producers started unearthing patriotic elements in the family lines, I became completely obsessed. Being the infomaniac that I am, I wanted to know more about my own family’s story of coming to America and contributing to what has become our corporate, national heritage. As a result, I’ve spent hours trolling the Internet looking for the missing leaves and severed branches of my own family tree. So far I’ve found coal miners, teamsters, young widows, teachers, farmers, lawyers, and two Pennsylvania Union soldiers fighting against the “other side” of my Rebel family from the South during the Civil War.
I’m still early in my pursuit, so I don’t know the “whys” of my family’s decision-making yet, but I have found one relative that has captured my attention. My great, great, great grandfather was a lawyer living in Pennsylvania at the time of the U.S. Census of 1850. He had a wife and three children. Then, he disappeared. In 1870 he pops up again living in Ohio with a new wife and eight children under his roof. The oldest child in the home was 34 and the youngest was 13. Don’t know what happened to the first wife. Don’t know what happened to his eldest son who never relocated to Ohio, and don’t know why my g-g-g-grandfather moved to Ohio in the first place, but the ten people living in his house caught my attention.
Ten people in one house…
Americans have always prided themselves in being independent. If need be, we can do the impossible and “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” Our early settlers hewed out towns and villages by hand, forever embossing a maverick mystique onto our national psyche. Benjamin Franklin personified the self-made man, and scores of immigrants set out to prove him right by striking it rich during the California Gold Rush of 1848. Throw in a lone cowboy riding off into the sunset, and President Herbert Hoover’s branding of Americans as “rugged individualists,” and we’ve got ourselves a real melting pot of…of self-sufficiency. Even America’s motto, In God we trust, stands in stark contrast to the independent nature we have assimilated throughout our history.
Is the self-sufficient, isolated American an accurate reflection of how the church in this country is operating? Should it be?
I don’t think so. I believe God is calling us to become more interdependent with each other than we ever have been.
Because of the never-ending effects of the 2007 economic crisis, we are in the midst of massive cultural change. Gone is the opulent, two parent, 1.4 kids, yuppie house featured in the 1980’s TV show, thirtysomething. Foreclosures, suffocating college debt, and the spiraling cost of health care are forcing many middle-income families back under the same roof. Dire necessity has catapulted us back in time to the age of The Walton’s – the 1970’s television show highlighting the stresses and strains of an extended family living together during The Great Depression era of the 1930’s. The Walton’s had 11 people living under one roof.
Eleven people in one house – talk about community! Talk about an environment ripe for conflict.
Bob and I are living with our ministry partners in their house in Colorado. We occupy the basement hideaway suite. There are eight of us in the house at the moment – Doug, Robbi, their three kids (Alexis, Jared, and Elizabeth), Bob, and me. Throw in Oscar the schnauzer, Rocky the coolest cat I’ve ever met, and Elizabeth’s red betta fish, Nick, and you’ve got an ark full. Add to all of this a revolving itinerary of other ministry partners coming and going from all quadrants of the country, and we sometimes have complete mayhem.
Is it possible to survive the mayhem? Yes, it’s possible – and it’s even possible to thrive in the midst of the chaos.
This morning I was wandering through the book of Ephesians when I kept bumping into verse after verse that describes how we are to interact with one another. Just listen to some of the ways people are encouraged to relate to one another:
“Lay aside falsehood. In your anger do not sin. Work hard so you have something to share with others, and be sure your words are encouraging. Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving. Walk in love, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. Show tolerance to one another. Preserve unity and also preserve the bond of peace.”
Living in community is a great way to develop servant-leadership character qualities. When our three boys were growing up, we had them share one room so they were forced to learn how to relate with one another. When they entered college, we wanted them to have at least one year of dorm living for the same reason. There’s something about living in community that brings out the worst in us so that God can develop His best in us.
I don’t know what your living situation is. Maybe you are trying to blend two families into one new family unit, or perhaps your twenty-something has moved back home to pay off college debts. Maybe God has asked you to provide shelter for an elderly parent or a safe haven for someone else who needs protection from the from the economic winds mercilessly whipping across this country.
Maybe you’re the one in need.
If you are living in community, or need to put yourself in that situation in the near future, here are a few things to keep in mind that will help make your experience all that God intends:
- Pray for one another (Ephesians 6:18)
- Be alert for the needs of the others around you (Ephesians 6:18)
- Persevere for one another (Ephesians 6:18)
- Stay in tune with your own personal needs (Philippians 2:4)
- Intentionally seek out ways to meet the needs of others (Philippians 2:4)
- The most important agenda item you have as a domestic group is unity (John 17:21-23)
Many of the forty-niners who set out to pan for gold during the California Gold Rush returned home with little more than they had when they left. We set out from Oregon last December to move to Colorado and struck it rich! The wealth of our new relationships is reaping dividends far beyond what we ever imagined. Money will come and go, but we will never regret investing in the unity of our little comm-unity.
Good night, Alexis.
Good night, Jared.
Mom! I forgot to feed Nick!
Good night, Elizabeth.
Good night, Momma.
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.