There’s lyrics to a song by Deb Talan that caught my attention a while ago. She sings, “you can’t do it on your own, and if you could would you really want to?” Her song (it’s called “Big Strong Girl” if you want to look it up) is all about loneliness. She sings about the isolation associated with living outside a community that cares. It’s wistful, and a little melancholy. The song played at the end of an episode of Psych I was watching, and that line jumped out at me.
Maybe I heard the line because that’s how I like to live — as if I can do it on my own. I value self-sufficiency. I struggle to work things out for myself. Letting someone else work out things for me leaves room for them to let me down. So, I have friends that I love to help, to let lean on me, but I share the good and — rarely — the truly honest beating of my heart.
Mostly, I work on my own problems. I wrote a sixteen page document of free-verse poetry one semester because I was trying to navigate my own mind. Don’t misunderstand me — I talked, too, to people who would listen. I shared a little, but there were spaces between the lines, and pauses where words could have existed. And I figured it out. I decided how to fix the things that troubled me and that was that.
But, I have been convicted that being human demands living in community, and community eventually requires transparency.
I was at a week of student leadership training this summer, and we did a lot of praying. Out loud. Together. And it felt powerful, you know, to share the burden of shining the light of the Father to the world. The week ended, like weeks tend to do. The semester started and I found myself with eighteen credits, two jobs, and multiple positions of varying responsibility around campus.
The communal prayer subsided too quickly, and the workload grew on individual shoulders.
But my roommate believes in a strong community of believers. And simply living individual lives at a Christian college doesn’t cut it for her. (She’s an extrovert. Can you really blame her?) She’s been talking about finding community within a church, because going to college chapel services isn’t accountability or mentorship.
We drove to a new church last week. It was one on the long list of places to check out. As soon as I sat down in the seat, I felt comfortable — and not even because the chairs were soft. All the anxiety of finding a church-building evaporated. Do you know what that service pounded into our hearts that day?
Community. Accountability. Membership and mentorship.
I can’t memorize seventy slides for an art history test on my own. I study with someone. I can’t be a Christian alone. Not really. Not the way God intended, anyway. I’m an organism in a body, and on my own I shrivel up and cease to exist. But together, maybe there is a vigorous, beautiful body created from the helpless parts.