Cracks In Community

In between brownies, chicken and quiche, my 8×8 stoneware baking dish developed a small crack in one corner. The crack appeared superficial, but I paid a bit more attention whenever I washed it, being careful not to bang the dish on the sink.

Months passed, and after hummus chicken and sweet potato for dinner one night, another crack appeared in the dish. This one was deeper, longer and evident on the bottom of the dish as well. The first crack hadn’t warranted a Google search on whether or not to continue using the dish, and the seriousness of the second crack didn’t warrant one either. I reasoned that unless I wanted to risk a stoneware and food explosion in my oven, the baking dish could no longer be used in the oven.

Community can be like my baking dish. Everything can be going along marvelously. We’re getting along with teammates; we’re making friends with people from our adopted country; we’re building relationships with eternal intentions. Saturdays are spent exploring new places with friends, and long, winter evenings are spent playing games with teammates while the lights twinkle on the Christmas tree. All is well. And for this we are thankful.

But then there is a bump in the sink. A hurtful word, an off-hand comment, a differing of opinions. A small crack forms in the community. Instead of taking the time to repair the crack, to seek forgiveness, to discuss the issue, we ignore the crack. We continue to participate in community and pretend as though everything is perfectly fine. And if you’re like me, this is your default reaction. However, the crack doesn’t vanish or shrink.

Eventually the underlying tension causes a deeper crack to form. Suddenly superficial appears simple because the deeper crack screams messy. Conversations and discussions become necessary. Decisions need to be made. And if you’re like me, you find yourself wondering if ignoring the first crack was really the wisest choice. Perhaps if you had dealt with the situation or the hurtful words, if you had sought forgiveness or scheduled a time to meet, then the deeper crack would never have formed in the first place. You would have come together as a community and learned how to prevent further cracks, how to work together in order to continue to accomplish your common purpose.

The deep crack in my baking dish occurred a week after I made a decision to return to the States for a home assignment earlier than anticipated. A week after I realized that I was no longer able to continue to repair or ignore cracks which had formed in my life here.

My personal brokenness and struggles were becoming deeper, instead of healing. The deepening cracks were not because of a lack of trying or caring on the part of others. But simply because I was unable to handle any more bumps in the sink.

Cracks and bumps are a part of life in community, and serving cross-culturally can magnify the imperfections in ourselves and in our community. How we handle the small, superficial cracks will determine how we deal with the deeper ones.

Will we be brave enough to have difficult conversations, to remove bitterness from our hearts? Or will we ignore the hurt and avoid the conversations? When a deeper crack forms in our community, will we ignore it until there is an explosion, leaving broken pieces in its wake? Or will we examine the crack, take responsibility for our part in creating it and make a decision about how best to continue to strive as a community for the common purpose of the gospel?

I write these words to myself because I am far from an expert on preventing and dealing with cracks in community. I haven’t always chosen the brave route; I haven’t desired the difficult conversations or the hard questions. And I’ve done my share of creating cracks in community. However, I am learning that God uses all of us in spite of the cracks in our community and that the cracks have a way of forcing us to rely more on Him and less on ourselves.

What cracks have you been ignoring? What cracks have you successfully addressed?

 

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Photo Source : Refe

13 Comments

  1. Jennifer February 25, 2015

    Laura,
    Thank you!!!
    One of the deepest challenges to me has been the simple fact that in the challenging journey I have walked the last couple of years, has been that I recognized for what they were at the time, the small cracks, and wanted to deal with them at the time, but those around me at the time both did not see them for what they were OR simply didn’t want to deal with them (at different times). Effectively creating a plethora of “this can’t be talked about” topics which actually worked to deepen the cracks in a profound way with significant spiritual impact more than anything else to me. Silence to me is one of those things which can do more to deepen the cracks (perhaps invisibly for a long time) which ultimately will lead to far deeper damage in the long run. Speaking inappropriately can do it too, but somehow it is easier to deal with something which has been spoken, than it is with something which is “silent” and which somehow must not be confronted. My journey in this continues, and I have increasingly been aware that my conviction that there are a couple of conversations I need to find an appropriate way to have really is a correct one and that I need to simply continue to walk one small step at a time, neither ignoring nor being overwhelmed by the cracks I see. God is with me.

    1. Laura February 26, 2015

      Jennifer,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts about how silence can deepen the cracks and create a slew of topics we avoid. Praying for you as you seek to have conversations with people; it’s not always easy, but I think it’s a lot more necessary than some of us realize.

  2. Mel February 25, 2015

    Wow, I’m sure those cracks are intensified being in another country. I realized today in having to deal with a situation that really hurt and upset me that i had let the little cracks go until there was a giant crevasse. If I had dealt with the little ones, maybe I could have avoided today. Sigh… Thank you for that reminder.

    I am not trying to be annoying or spammy but I wonder if some of you would be willing to take my short survey on being an overseas worker. It’s totally anonymous but will help with a story I’m writing. Thank you. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XP6YL78

    1. Laura February 26, 2015

      Mel,

      Thankful my words were a reminder to you today; praying for resolution and peace in the situation you dealt with yesterday.

  3. Jilida February 26, 2015

    Laura, this is my favorite the posts you’ve written. It’s so true.

    The hard thing is that both parties have to be really willing to address the crack. About a year ago I found out two of our incoming team members were vegan. I got tired of everyone talking about them behind their backs and wrote a polite email saying, “Here is where these choices will be totally doable, and here is where they may cause problems.” One took it well and another became irate. When she arrived she demanded an apology and I gave her one.

    The thing is, the apology might have healed the crack for her, but it made it deeper for me. She became a person I wasn’t safe to address cracks with. When another small correction caused her to be irate, I shut down. From there on out I haven’t corrected pronunciation, presumptions, or facts.

    I’m not saying don’t address the cracks. I’m still glad I said something, as I can’t imagine having lived these past 12 months in silence. But I’m not so sure I did it well. And I know that whether anyone else on my team feels it, there is a huge crack between me and her.

    1. Laura February 26, 2015

      Jil,

      Yes, the willingness of both parties to address the crack and seek to repair it. As I thought about your comment, I realized how I’ve experienced this as well and how much the unwillingness of myself or someone else to deal with a crack causes more and deeper cracks to form. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts. 🙂

  4. Elizabeth February 26, 2015

    I could definitely relate to this. I am one of those people who likes to ignore the little cracks until they are big cracks. Eek! Not the best approach.

    1. Laura February 26, 2015

      Elizabeth,

      I’m still learning how to deal with the little cracks, instead of ignoring them; it’s good to know I’m not alone in struggling with this. 🙂

  5. Laurie February 26, 2015

    I like this post. In the last few months that I lived in Honduras, my truck tires needed attention. Just a bit of air here and there at first. I had a buyer who insisted on not changing the tires, but I was adding air daily before the purchase went though. Kinda like the crack in the dish. It was getting dangerous to ride on those leaky tires. I was running out of steam, too. Now I am in the US, for the first time in a decade, I don’t have concrete plans to return to a foreign country. I neglected certain aspects of community, and now, I need time to find my way again.

    1. Laurie February 26, 2015

      Please remove the huge image of my head.

      1. Jilida February 26, 2015

        Laurie, I completely relate to that. In the states I was part of a church that valued vulnerability, and the relational dynamics among the ex-pats here were my biggest source of culture shock. I’m heading back to the U.S. in a month, to a new city and a new church, and one of my biggest concerns is that I’ll either be clingy or aloof. I sometimes wonder if I’ve forgotten how to be warm and open. But God has been reminding me that I managed it with my fall connection group, so I’ll likely figure it out in the U.S. as well. How long have you been back?

         

        1. Laurie February 27, 2015

          I have been back about six months. The process of adjustment has been slower than I would like. That’s okay because we all heal at our own pace.

    2. Laura February 26, 2015

      Laurie,

      I like your analogy of the leaky tires. 🙂 Praying for you today as you adjust back to life in the US.

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