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The Commune Comes To A Close

April 1, 2013

* I was talking with a friend today and we were discussing how certain things come around that are so good they ruin the average things in life.  All you can think about while doing those average things is being in what was more excellent.  Zoo Ministries at it’s peak and the Commune was one on of those things.  Below is some thoughts I wrote several weeks ago trying to articulate my love for the Commune. 

The Commune Closes

As I packed up at the Commune I came across a tin box.  The dented little thing, octagon shaped and old, was painted white with subdued red flowers covering its surface.  It was as a whole rather unspectacular.

I’m not sure how that tin ended up in the Commune in the first place but I do know that it filled me with pleasant memories as I picked it up.  This same tin sat at the end of our table during Saturday Night Dinners filled up with coins by us, the edges of tattered dollars bills occasionally spilling over the side, as a planned surprise for Daren to give him a little extra cash to do fun things while he lived on virtually nothing to get Active:Water going.  As the light in the house dully reflected off of the tin, my reverie continued and I was reminded me that Daren had one time given me all his tips for a week after I had shared at a Dinner that I didn’t think Kara and I could financially sustain ourselves in Kalamazoo.

Nearly everything I picked up as I packed– coffee mugs or books or other odds and ends both great and small – had memories imprinted on them.  Adrienne had provided funky word magnets for the fridge for us to leave funny messages.  Merches had built a table leg to buttress the middle of the dinner table because we had so many people and so much food on the table at one time that it was sagging in the extensions.  Even some of my socks had been given to me by Comfort for Christmas.  As I packed, these verses came to mind from 2nd Timothy:

In a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

I learned many things living at our self proclaimed “Hippie Commune” – too many to list here – but the strongest lesson spotlighted by living in close proximity to faithful friends is in revelation that I didn’t really believe that the houses I had lived in before were actually God’s.  “I” was the center of my home life and I let it be its own wooden vessel that I filled with other less noble vessels.  It was a pocket in my life where I made it ok for me to not be noble.  I believed my house was mine to do what I chose in it then counter-actively rationalized that God was ok with what I did as long as it wasn’t sinful.  Home became a place where I didn’t have to be at my best.  I could be lazy.  I could be selfish.  I didn’t have to reach spiritually because I was “resting”.  It was easy to justify because no one saw what I was doing alone.

By claiming that I was living in this house for Christ I became very uncomfortably exposed.  It is not wrong to rest.  It is not wrong to pause.  It is not wrong to have hobbies.  It is not wrong to have those things in a home.  However, simply claiming that I was doing something for Jesus, as I was doing by living in the Hippie Commune, forced me to face that I didn’t use that quiet time to seek God but to instead binge on my desires.  Those “vessels of dishonor” started to become glaringly obvious because I knew my roommates could see them.  They were exposed.  I could not withdraw into my own little worlds without a nagging voice accompanying that world.  I could not fill my life with lust and pornography easily.  This is not just because other people were constantly around but because I could feel my roommates presence around me and I could feel the weight of my vow to use this space for Jesus.  A crazy thing happened: I started to lose my taste for my wooden articles.

This is the surprising thing to me about living with a bunch of people who want to do so for Christ’s sake.  Simply being with each other pushes the dishonorable things in you to the surface and at the same time presents vistas of the noble parts of others.  These things create a pressure in your life.  You will react one of two ways.  You will seek to rid yourself of the pressure either by leaving, withdrawing, constantly blaming other people to make yourself a victim, hiding under falsely righteous anger, or relentlessly rationalizing it.  (None of these work for long )  Or it will change you.  Love – the mere presence of it – changes things all on its own.  It is not all about willful effort.  As scripture says, “Overcome evil with good” and “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John) Paul doesn’t mention in Romans that evil has to always willfully decide to change itself.  John doesn’t say that fear one day just decides to leave.  Just placing yourself in the presence of consistent love will push evil out of your life or you will flee love’s presence with your wooden articles bundled up hastily in your arms.  They cannot coexist for long.

Looking back, I found too much of myself loving “darkness” (as John says in 1 John).  I was often willing to chase after it at the expense of love.  This self discovery has been painful.  I don’t think it’s been painful for me alone either.  However, as painful as it has been, I realize that this was one of the best aspects of the Hippie Commune.  It offered varying degrees of family, support, spiritual guidance, and other Christian blessings but it always, always exposed who we truly were.  It cut through phony spirituality, fake personas, and rationalizations to not be noble.

In many ways, the Commune cut me to pieces.  It relentlessly shone a spotlight on my wooden articles and the sheer proportion of them was staggering.  However, scattered in there were also noble articles of our time that are beautiful and worth holding on to.  The dented octagon tin is a small representation.  In fact, there are an overwhelming number of noble things – far, far more than in any place I lived alone.  So many, in fact, that I’m having a hard time getting rid of anything because so many of the represent truth manifested through love!

The house is now empty.  The lights are out.  The rooms are cool and footsteps echo through its foreclosed hallways.  Someone will come in to rip down walls, fill it with shiny new appliances, and try to resuscitate the corpse of the American dream we desperately fought to kill in faith of a better heavenly home talked about by Jesus.  A house with many rooms that Jesus has prepared for us all to live in together again with him.  A perfect and forever community with the Trinity.  Endless nobility.  But, the Commune is not over.  We, indeed, continue to be a “spiritual house” as Peter says, and that house knows no earthly boundaries.  The Commune’s foreclosure has simply been the impetus to move to other places and build others into the house we are.  The walls of our physical homes may change but our spiritual home remains unchanged because it is each other.  And I am certainly nobler because my nobility is not my actions or perfection – it is them.

So, to my roommates both from the house and those who supported it so many ways – to my Commune – I love you.  Thank you.  We go on.  Let’s us fill our world with good news and share the shelter of our walls with this world.  Love in Christ –  Todd.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Sean Niestrath permalink
    April 1, 2013 5:11 pm

    Thanks Todd. I will use this soon. Miss you guys.

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