There has been a spot on resurgence in Christian circles of late that has brought us back to the essential biblical truth of the “communal” nature of the Gospel and of the Church. However, just as is true with anything, extremes can be taken, where truth is distorted or misappropriated.
Think of the last time you expected something of your spouse, co-worker, or fellow parishioner. What were you really looking for? And what was your reaction when they did not deliver? Look at what Henri Nouwen writes:
We constantly feel tempted to want more from those around us than they can give. We relate to our neighbors with the hope and the supposition that they are able to fulfill most of our deepest needs, and then we find ourselves disillusioned, angry, and frustrated when they do not. We know that when we expect a friend or lover to take away our deepest pain, we expect from him or her something that cannot be given by another human being. We have heard that no human being can understand us fully, or give us unconditional love, or offer constant affection that enters into the core of our being and heals our deepest brokenness. We know this in our heads but our loneliness pushes us to expect it anyway. When we forget this profound truth and expect of others more than they can give, we are quickly disillusioned and we easily become resentful, bitter, revengeful, and even violent.
Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation, pp. 39-40
All of the end results of misappropriating people in our lives lead to the same reaction, in various degrees. When people cannot deliver to us that which we would desire of them, we lash out in fear and frustration.
It is in this void that the gospel must speak loudly. Community does not exist around us to replace Christ, but rather to point us to Christ. We must not look to anyone else in our lives to be what they were not designed to be, give what they inherently cannot give, and do what they are incapable of doing (at the level and depth to which our souls need).
How have you found yourself expecting the unachievable and impossible from those around you?