“Can you guys believe that we’ve been doing this [Mission Year] for a year and a half?” This was the question that Cynthia (Alum Intern) asked a couple of weeks ago that has stopped me in my tracks as we end second trimester and head into a straight four months to finish off the year. I started second trimester with a lot of expectations and hopes. At first I gripped so tightly to those expectations – often falling into disappointment in myself and my community. My expectations said “I need you to love me unconditionally” and thus, did not provide room for the mess that needed to happen: the messy dishes, the messy debates, the messy “too-much-to-do-too-little-time” attitude I carried. It is because of the mess in these past couple of months, that I have grown to desire more reconciliation, vulnerability, and unity in diversity in my life. It is because of the mess that I have learned the importance of holding loosely of my expectations so that I may learn how to be a better leader.
With the end of this trimester, I’ve seen my team grow a lot in setting better boundaries and inviting others into their personal growth. Watching them grow, I’ve felt challenged to set better boundaries and expectations in my relationships. Exhibit A: the messy dishes.
The dirty dishes are something that we often talk about in our community. I hear questions in the house like “Who left their dirty dish in the sink?” “Can you put the dishes away?” “Whose turn is it to wash dishes?” [NOTE: I’m sure that if we had a dishwasher, it would be “Who didn’t load the dishes? Who didn’t unload the dishes?” and so forth. It could also be about other things that each person does differently. All that to say, no matter what, this messy (fill in the blank) thing we rely on each other to do would probably be a consistent topic of discussion]. A couple of weeks ago during the concerns part of our team meeting, one of my housemates noted that it seems like she is the only one who asks these questions that push others to uphold their end of the commitment we each have to helping our community flow. After a few seconds, I felt that I needed to confess (out loud) to the group that I was probably hindering others from holding their end of the commitment to keeping the kitchen clean by washing dirty dishes when they weren’t mine. Voicing this was an invitation to allow others to hold me accountable to not only leave other people’s dirty dishes alone, but also an acceptance of the needs I heard in my roommate’s concern to join her in the asking of others.
With these little tiny steps towards creating better boundaries in different aspects of my life, I realize that I’m becoming more at peace with what I offer to my housemates as a person and a leader. I’m beginning to give my time, emotions, friendship, and vulnerability out of my true self and avoiding burnout by giving out of what I assume others need from me. This helps me to create the space necessary in my heart to celebrate community; letting go of what is not and embracing the beauty of what is.
In a recent conversation, I was reminded to be of good cheer towards my intentional Mission Year community. It’s not too much longer, where the definition of intentional community will be transformed by the number of unshared meals, different churches, different work schedules, etc. Spring time is almost here and I sense a transition into a season of celebration and rejoicing over the work that God began in August of 2012. I will never get this beautiful, hard, and transformative season of my life back – and as much as I want to run away when the going gets tough, my commitment to myself and my community is to stop tip-toeing around the messy water, and jump fully into what is right in front of me.