Last week I sat at an old wooden table on a wobbly little stool next to my sister, while we wrote and sketched and breathed in the heavy, spicy smell of piping hot mulled wine.
I was in the back room of The Eagle and Child pub, the very room in which Lewis and Tolkein and all their professor friends used to gather to hang out and talk about big things.
(Without being cheesy or whatever, I WAS LITERALLY FREAKING OUT.)
And I got to wondering.
Did any of those men have any inkling of what Divine plans were being hatched as they drank their mulled wine (assuming they were mulled wine guys...because it is the actual greatest) and laughed and chatted?
I wonder how much Tolkein is in Narnia, and how much Lewis is in Middle Earth. And what other voices spoke, consciously or unconsciously, into those worlds.
I had a long chat with a dear friend recently, during which we spent a great deal of time talking about how (realistically) our friendship, and our little tribe of pals at the moment, won’t last forever.
Honestly, we can all get on pretty well without each other. No one’s going to fall apart if so-and-so moves back home or one of us gets married or something. There’s a season for everything, and people come and go, and the older you get the easier it becomes to replace one piece of the puzzle with another. Humans are very resilient.
(I maybe don't need to mention that my emotional and idealistic little heart can hardly handle such a conversation? Regardless of how factual it is.)
I think there’s a but.
Maybe we kind of do need each other, actually. Here's why: There are times when we need to be refined. Or tested. Times we need tangible evidence of a Love we can’t see.
So God, in His infinite grace and mercy, gave us each other. He didn’t throw us together haphazardly—He set us in place on purpose. To love each other. To fight with each other. To rub each other the wrong way and to be reconciled. To lean on each other. And mostly, I think, to intercede for each other.
In his book, Surprised by Joy, Lewis talks a lot about the friends he met in Oxford, both as a student and as a professor. Friends who were very like him, and friends with whom he argued for hours on end. Friends, like Tolkein, who helped point him to Jesus.
If I love my people like I claim to, it should be forefront in my heart to help see them safely to the gates of Heaven. If that is my focus the relationship becomes way less about how I am being served and far more about how I am serving.
DING DING DING.
What a lesson for a selfish little soul to learn! Building a community isn’t about finding a group of people who fulfill your every need. It’s about nestling into a group of your people and finding out their needs, and meeting them as best you can.
And because of how life works, those relationships won’t last forever. It’s still true that we are each replaceable and there may come a day when the current state of things will be a hazy (if endlessly fond) memory.
But just like Lewis, Tolkien, Barfield, Cecil and the others each had a treasured place around the table, so you have a place in your community. And it is purposeful and sacred, no matter the length of time it lasts.
Community is a bunch of people who most definitely need each other. Who are maybe even divinely appointed to need each other, even if for a moment.
I've decided it's a great comfort to know that, while it may not last forever, the community I have now exists for a purpose. And not just the purpose of making me happy.
In fact, that's not the purpose at all. Thank God.
Community is a group thing. It's about everyone doing life together, and (probably unconsciously) having far more of an effect on each other than any one of them realizes.
Kind of like in that back room at The Eagle and Child.