You have likely heard the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child.” In our case, it took a village to conceive one.
I probably need to unpack that statement a little.
Kylie and I have been trying to have a baby for five years. We have been through a variety of clinics, tests and surgeries. We’ve had miscarriages, false alarms and line after line of disappointments. Through it all, people have been praying for us, at church and from afar. People we know well and people we have never met have prayed. In our latest attempt, an IVF cycle that was beyond our capacity to afford, we were finally successful — and it was only possible because of a GoFundMe campaign a friend set up.
In a lot of ways, our infertility has been a lonely experience. In another way, it has been an expansively communal one. As our village has come alongside us over the last five years and the last few days (when we found out we were pregnant!), here are some significant lessons I have learned about communal living.
Searching for a Lynch Pin
We have had people fervently praying for us for five years. About once a week, someone asks if they can pray for us to conceive a child. We have sometimes laughed at the idea that whenever we do become pregnant, the person who prayed last will have the claim to fame. In this case, it was a set of pastors at a micro church conference.
Here is the thing about life in a community: people are always looking for the focal point. Who started this church? Who leads this company? So many people have prayed for us, and we can tell some of them desperately want to be the lynch pin, the focal point.We really like the idea that we can boil things down to one specific powerful moment (or one charismatic person) around which everything else orbits.
However, communal living is more complicated than that. The pastors at the conference who prayed for us are not the ones responsible for us being pregnant. The power of prayer is not a magic moment. Things can happen that way, but the real power is in the tapestry of prayers. We like to credit all of the collective prayers rather than the single event. There is often a moment we can connect to miracles and wonderful happenings, but so often we look for it to the detriment of necessary appreciation for the whole community.
In a healthy and vibrant community, it is just too complex and too beautiful to boil things down to one moment or one person — no matter how significant the thing they did was. A founder’s moment does not matter unless others come along and steward the beginning well. It dies in a generation unless others take up the mantle.
This obsession with the one focal point leads a lot of communities to dysfunction. People are tripping over one another because they want to be the focal point. It becomes a competition.
A village is not one person’s pet project or responsibilities. It takes a village to be a village.
We are thankful for each of the participants in our little community. Each of them. Equally. Both individually and collectively.
Part of the Whole
It is a difficult balance to be part of something bigger than oneself. In one way, it takes a lot of sacrifice. You have to lay down a lot of selfishness. If we are not careful, this can become problematic. We can lean too far in this direction — justifying abuse against us, not using our voice, etc. We can feel as though we have to go away; as if our thoughts, ideas, and concerns are a problem to the community.
The irony is that being a part of something bigger than ourselves is the best way to find ourselves. It is best for the community and it is best for us. We do not need to disappear for the sake of the community; we need to awaken to our full potential for the sake of the community.
We have struggled in the last five years with not wanting to overburden our community by constantly bringing up the challenges we were facing. However, people wanted to help. They wanted to be involved. Sharing so deeply in our sorrows has opened the door wide to share in the joys of our recent success.
Community living is beautiful and complex. It is a great joy and a necessary element of human flourishing. To do it best, we have to lean into its complexity, its challenges and its joy.