Walk into a house, the carpet is hideous and the smell is strange… you can’t put your finger on it. It might be bad or it may in fact be amazing. But its definitely lived in. You forget about it in 8 minutes anyway (7 if you’re a male) Because instantly your greeted with tea or coffee, an old and disheveled but oh comfy couch. That feels and looks like a million hobos have slept off hangovers on it.
Someone stands in front of you playing the hardest level of guitar hero and they are doing pretty well. In fact they know the game so well that the person with the wireless guitar walks around the corner of the room into the dinning room and keeps playing it properly.
Strangers walk out of the kitchen. Some of them introduce themselves, others are quieter or obsessed by the lego they found in the corner. It smells like someone is beginning to cook bbq outside so you politely walk around the guitar hero rock god and walk your way to the back yard.
What you find in the back yard looks like the set from band of brothers. There are definite craters in the dirt that look like a bomb hit it. It looks as though someone tried a garden at some stage a long time ago, but got bored or distracted and walked off from it. There are multi gatherings. Some around the bbq, being entertained by a story teller. Some quietly catching up on the trampoline. The regular alcoholic has started early and begins to ask someone to give him a hair cut.
If you were to venture further into the bedrooms of the house or up to the roof you would find further groupings. New acquaintances, new friends who now have children and see each other less. New girlfriends or brothers brought into the mix of strangely unrelated community. More filter in or out all night. Deep to shallow conversations are had. Another fire is lit that may or may not get out of hand and end with a whole piano on it. Food is eaten, and even more stories are shared or reminisced upon.
In the morning a clean up begins. A chore yes. But a necessity to get the house back to normalcy.
Out of no where a phone call is received suggesting that a complete stranger crash on the old couch because he’s been kicked out of a caravan park. He shows up, is uber socially awkward but genuine. Sleeps on the couch a couple of nights and then begins to recognise his place in the communal goings on. He starts to give to the houses dance in the ways he can. Out of the blue he ups and leaves. His dad has died. Next time he is heard from he’s teaching Korean in Brisbane.
Next phone call the big red dog needs the couch while he tries out an apprenticeship. Or the times jono – the homeless kid slept over and then stole a skateboard. Or the bands that stayed in the lounge room and left before anyone of the house woke up.
Every so often a house meeting was called. They were fun times. The only times they were all in the same room for most of it. They genuinely loved each other. There were irritations towards each other. Who wouldn’t. There was 5 guys in a 3 bedroom house. But they served or changed.
The house couldn’t be described as heaven. Far from it. I hope heaven smells better. It was a house of self exclaimed broken people chasing most of their dreams in the context of the strangest community.
Group houses are incredible. Because they can either function as hotels. Rooms and members in the rooms can be super separate from the others. Use the kitchen separate, have separate shelves for food. Clean your part of the bathroom.
The “house of love (the group house I lived in for 4.5 years) would shop together. Every week or so we would meet at the supermarket and throw things we needed into a trolley. It was the funniest. We regularly cooked for each other and ate with each other. We would hold huge party/bbq/dinners together. We would be hospitable together. For awhile there we were all in a band together too. We had completely different jobs, we worshipped at separate churches (until the last year). But we were united in community. We took people in, we stored things for people in our shed and yes we set fire to a piano.
And once again, we weren’t perfect by any means. We were so different that we grated on each other sometimes. The break up of the house in the end got a bit dodgey (which could be another picture for what not to do in church) but we worked with what we got. We fought for relationship when we needed to. (although yes could’ve been better)
But its funny watching a church group have no clue what to do when a stranger walks into the room.
In the house of love it got so normal that one year two girls came down from super north Canberra to our house in super south Canberra just looking for parties on new years. They walked into our house and all of our invited guests just introduced themselves and they stayed for two hours and then left after making friends. Asking people later who knew them – no one.
When jono came in and hung out at my graveyard shift at 4am in the morning, then slept on the floor of my service station because he hadn’t had a warm place to sleep in days, I took the 15 year old kid home and let him sleep in my house.
But we like our space don’t we? We like our normalcy?
Did it put me out to let a kid sleep? Yes. I didn’t sleep that whole day. And I had things to do you know. But there is room in our days to move and shake.
What about parties when you have to get up for work at 6am. Ear plugs, mutual respect. Some parties will need to be quieter, but sometimes you will lose sleep.
Jesus would grab some alone time out in the mountains. The rest of the time was spent with people, teaching, healing, changing lives.
If the body of christ’s role isn’t to change the world why have be been put here? To be hermits? To be like everyone else?
A missionary family in traralgon, Victoria used to have an open house policy. You could eat anything you wanted. Even the ice cream.
We follow a God who provides everything we need. We will not be eaten out of house and home.
I recently stayed with a family who has two guest rooms always made up.
Spare cars, bus tickets, clothing off our backs that we just give to those who need it. Cupboards full of food that can be given away at a moments notice.
Backed by a community who knows that we are the hands and feet of God.
What are some other pictures of communal living circumstances that could parallel how the church of God could function?