Early on during my time in Estonia, I bought myself a pad of paper and a small watercolor kit at the local grocery store, with the intention of using them to spend my free time The first painting was of the ruined Orthodox church I blogged about earlier. As I spent the afternoon working on it, I reflected on where the church is which resulted in the blogpost. I’ve been meaning for a while now to paint again, this time reflecting further on the ideas raised in the blogpost about the garden of Christian community. When the paint of this reflection finally began to leave its mark on the paper, I learned another important lesson about what it means to be part of Christian community.
As I painted, I was surrounded by the two young girls were each working on their own painting. Having spent an hour working on perfecting her painting, Mim let out a cry of frustration as she looked at the three skinny petals on the flower she was drawing in pen. She had been aiming to outline the broad petals of a sunflower and began to fall into paralyzing despair that what she had done didn’t match up to what she had envisioned. I tried to reassure her that the flower was still beautiful and added to the allure of the picture overall. Realizing that this tactic wasn’t giving her the hope to lift the brush again, I offered to finish sketching out the series of skinny petals. I made this offer with the assumption that she looked up to my artistic abilities (although they are equal if not surpassed by hers) and would be encouraged that I wanted to take part in what she was working on. She didn’t accept the offer for me to add to her painting until I asked her to fill in the empty center of a sunflower on mine. As we exchanged paintings again after making the requested additions, she eagerly began to paint her picture with renewed enthusiasm. Looking at my painting, I saw a visual reminder of the beauty of Christian community that takes form when we let others into our lives, particularly as the painting reminds me of the events that occurred during the painting process which left their mark on the final product.
Another story that conveys a similar beautiful growth from a faithful community is that of Ruth. Having committed herself to Naomi as Naomi was in despair, Ruth finds herself waiting to be married to someone who will carry on the name of Ruth’s late husband. When Boaz, whom Ruth has offered the position to, offers it to another man who has first-dibs, the other man rejects it as soon as he realizes accepting it would be a risk to what he had planned out for himself. Inviting Ruth and Naomi into his life, which undoubtedly changed his own plans, Boaz takes Ruth as his wife and they have a son who will become the grandfather of David.
While we may catch glimpses of the beauty of community when we let others impact our lives, God may be doing more through our devotion to one another than we could even imagine. Acts 2:42-47, a Christian community is portrayed where they are clearly invested in one another lives, not just with the excess they don’t need to keep for themselves, but rather with all that they had. They saw some of the fruits of this community in the numbers that were being saved, but think of how surprised they would be if they had known how many people their story would inspire. The call to community is not just a call to help out, it is also a call to be willing to be helped yourself, to be known, and to end up looking back on the picture of your life and see a beauty that can only be created by community.