“Well, you know your options,” Chris says without taking his eyes off the road. “You can confront it or forgive it and let it go, but you can’t harbour it.”
I glare out the car window where the twinkly downtown lights of Atlanta rush by. I know he’s right. Even worse, he’s knows he’s right. But sometimes it feels so good to be grumbly and resentful.
Welcome to the darker side of being a sinful human living in close community. When people ask what it’s like to live on the road most of the year on a tour bus with Rend Collective it’s hard to know how to summarise it into a few snappy soundbites.
Most of my answers have been clumsy and one dimensional, inadequate descriptions of the intense joy and blurry pain – life and ministry inseparably intertwined. If given the chance, ultimately what I want to tell people about what I’ve learned spending 16 months living in constant community is this: you’ll never experience real community until you learn how to really serve.
Everyone wants to live in intimate fellowship, to have people who know you inside out, to share your highs and lows with. But no one wants to take the uncomfortable plunge into living, breathing servanthood. It’s in our DNA to serve ourselves. No one has to tell us how to look out for number one, we just do it because we’re wired that way to survive. These days if we aren’t promoting ourselves, our brand or our message, we aren’t keeping up.
But survival of the fittest is the opposite of what it means to live in community. He must increase, we must decrease, and above all we’re called to love others more than we love ourselves.
Living with my Rend Collective family has taught me loving others in community means getting down on your knees, letting them touch the uncomfortable gravelly ground, and washing the dirt from your neighbour’s feet.
It means letting go of what feels fair and chasing after what looks like love. It means helping Ali, Gareth and baby Arthur lift their bags at the airport at 4:30am and trying to make that experience as easy as possible. It means cleaning up messes on the bus that aren’t yours, it means offering to help needs before you’re asked to, and finding ways to make everyone’s life easier.
We don’t always do these things perfectly in Rend Collective, but we all know we’ll never survive this life, this ministry, this calling if we aren’t looking for ways to serve one another.
These things aren’t just true for our little Rend Collective family, they apply to our entire human community. To be creatures dependent on one another is frustrating and beautiful all in the same breath. Putting others before myself goes against my every instinct. So much so, that half the time I’m not even quite sure how to anticipate the needs of others. As I learn to train my eyes to see others’ needs, I’ve found the more personally uncomfortable and sacrificial the service, the more needed it usually is.
When Jesus died on the cross it was the ultimate sacrifice. Nothing spared, and entirely painful. But there’s nothing our human community needs more than a saviour.
I’m not saying I, or anyone else in Rend Collective, is a saint. We groan and grumble because we’re sinful humans learning to die to ourselves. Every day on the road is a lesson in how to stop chasing our own glory, and instead serve His Church.
These are the things I considered that night in the car. Was it a service to talk about what was annoying me? Or was the most loving thing I could do just to let it go and never think about it again?
Writing about it now I don’t even remember what it was I was so irked about. I don’t remember who it was directed at, I’m sure it was about something stupid. But I do remember making the evaluation that it wasn’t a big enough deal to have a conversation about, and definitely not a big enough deal to hold onto and create a riff in our road family. It’s the service of grace, of letting go of my rights.
Because that’s what servanthood is, isn’t it? Letting go of our rights, and our claim on things in order to love someone better. I’ve learned this is the only lasting path to intimate fellowship, because it’s the same path Jesus took. Through his service and sacrifice we have fellowship with the Father, and through our service to each other we receive membership into the eternal family of God.