A few days back you asked for hopeful stories related to the prophetic call of the Benedict Option. Here is mine.
While my husband and I were never in an intentional communal living situation we have (over our 35 years of married life with children) carved out small communities of believers that remain faithful many years later.
Meetings and interactions with these groups of people augmented our commitments to our large-ish evangelical non-denominational church. In our early years of parenting we homeschooled our kids with families who had similar goals and interests in teaching our children to love God and their neighbors. We were all very dedicated to each other and shared what we had from talents and abilities to lawnmowers to books to garden produce.
My husband used to say that he never knew what children he would come home to after work as most of our women friends were moms who stayed home with their children and we helped each other with childcare and day to day responsibilities.
My kids still consider some of those women and their husbands as auxiliary parents. When we moved to a new community because of my husband’s work situation we found a new set of believers and dove right into life together. We met on Sunday afternoons for a meal and prayer and singing while the children ran in and out and around and sometimes joined us in worship. We are still in a small group of people that has been meeting together for about 18 years.
In that time some have moved away and some have joined but the core has remained faithful to each other and to the “one anothers” in scripture. Pray for one another, confess your sins to one another, bear one another’s burdens, love one another, admonish one another, be patient, bearing with one another, submit to one another, serve one another in love. In all of these relationships our hopes were that our children would be surrounded with a community that would further underscore our intentions of raising them to be the next generation of believers in Jesus. Of our five children only one is purposefully following Jesus and passing the faith to his children. Many of our friends are witnessing their children drifting from the faith as well.
So what is the point of making this kind of life?
If one is making these decisions (that are costly in time and resources) to pass the faith on to children and to shield them from the evils of this world, one may be unaware that much more fruit than that will be harvested. As my husband and I have lived a daily life with other believers it has produced a character in us and a place of belonging, a place of healing and hope… come what may. And see how troubles will come!
We can’t explain why our daughter chose to turn her back on all that she knew and have a child whose father is in name only. Or why our friends’ daughter has removed her breasts and female organs and declared herself a man, or why our friends’ son chose to marry an agnostic woman who several years later cleaned out their savings account and went across the country with the children. We can’t explain why our friends’ daughter sees Christianity as a hate religion that persecutes homosexuals or perhaps even more perplexing why our children see faith as irrelevant. When things like this can’t be explained it is a blessed relief to fall back on years and years of “one anothers”.
So while the story has not yet been completely written in our collective children’s lives we now find ourselves as late middle-aged and older brothers and sisters in Christ standing strong in the face of these disappointments because we have built something together over many years. When a friend shares a painful story about their child it is also our sorrow because we saw that child grow up too. When a friend’s grandchild is in danger we pray as if it were our grandchild because we remember her mother was a tender hearted girl. We recall moments when our wandering young adults were children and they experienced and spoke about the presence of God. We remind each other of seeds planted, of the callings we saw in each other’s kids. We are like the angels in heaven rejoicing when one of our children repents and follows Jesus.
Although we were unaware of it at the time, those years we tried to build something for our children (and we did) we were actually building something for us too. I’m fairly certain that more than one marriage has been saved because of our community of believers. We have pulled each other through financial scrapes. We have saved hundreds of dollars of therapy fees. We are a rich memory bank for each other. We remind each other of the promises of God. Over the years we have seen each other for who we really are, sinners standing at the foot of the cross, and also deeply loved sons and daughters of God. We are a shelter for each other.
I tell you, younger ones, build it! Build it because Christ alone is the fountain of human thriving. Build it for your children, build it for yourself.
Oh my. That is something. Reader, thank you.