I have now been home from our power soccer national tournament for about a week and to say it has been on my mind is an understatement. After getting over my tiredness and simply the letdown of being done, I have to admit that the results were obviously not what I was aiming for. Does anyone go to the competition without hoping to come away with the championship? If you do, then maybe you are just wired differently than me. Winning is not everything by any means (okay, I am just saying that to try to sound normal, as it has been said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”), but I do play to win to the best of my ability, so the fact that we had our share of struggles, particularly on Sunday where the proverbial (and literal in the case of one of my teammates) wheel came off, was a little bit tough for me. It is not so much a matter of blaming myself, my teammates, the referees, or anyone else, but there is still that twinge of regret that we did not come away with the trophy that I was hoping to bring back to Vermont. If you’ve played sports before, I think you can understand where I am coming from.
Trying to set aside that competitive wiring in my mind, I have to come back to my topic that is one of my favorites. The power soccer community is a remarkable thing. I am a pretty social person, so I take advantage of every opportunity to hang out at the gym watching other people play. Whoever I end up sitting by turns into my conversation partner, sometimes whether they like it or not. It is so easy because we have a shared interest playing out in front of us. I like to talk about the game. Most people have no idea what power soccer is, so I take advantage of the opportunity to discuss the intricacies of the game with other people who love to play it as well.
Over the years, I have gotten to know a lot of people. When I went into the gym on Saturday morning, I was greeted by a bunch of familiar faces. People were greeting me, and I was greeting them. Lots of smiles were going around because it simply made me happy to see some cool people I hadn’t seen for a few years. That is the power of community. You have a group of people with a shared interest, and they come together to celebrate that interest. This is why communities matter. There is a natural human desire to want to have these types of experiences. We are wired to want to have things like this, and I’m so privileged to have been able to find several of them, power soccer being one.
I would like to suggest, however, that there is something deeper to this desire for community other than the really great fact that it makes me feel good to be a part of it. That is certainly a significant benefit and should not be minimized. However, when we do things that are consistent with human nature, it does not just make us feel good. Rather, it encourages human thriving. When humanity thrives, we are not just happy. Happiness is a symptom of thriving rather than the root cause of it. In other words, I am doing something that is good, beneficial, healthy, and positive, so I am happy. Community does not become good because it makes me happy. Instead, community itself is good and therefore makes me happy.
Let me suggest an alternative illustration if this seems a little bit convoluted. For some people, drugs make them happy. However, that does not mean that drugs are good. If drugs were actually good, then they would be beneficial, healthy, and positive, making people happy as a consequence of that intrinsic goodness. Just because they make some people happy does not make them good.
With that differentiation clarified and hopefully understood, I think that there is an extension we can make beyond this fact that community is good. If community is intrinsically good for us and encourages human thriving, then reaching back one step raises the question as to why we are wired this way. After all, there is no real reason that community itself must be a good thing. It could be a damaging thing like drugs. I guess I need to justify that assumption a little bit further.
Since the beginning of human history, it seems to be the case that humanity has organized itself in groups. For Christians, we recognize the reality of God’s statement that it is not good for man to be alone. Of course, God was speaking in the context of creating Eve, but I think that the principle extends beyond just a discussion of husbands and wives. It is good for us to have friends. It is good for us to have children. It is good for us to have other people to avoid being alone. It is therefore no surprise that humanity has followed its actual desires which God put in the human heart for man to desire companionship in a variety of ways.
Doesn’t this understanding of why humanity is wired in this way simply seem consistent with your experience? Even if you are not a Christian, don’t you get a similar feeling when you are around a group of people who share common interests and values? You are all committed to something and desire to do it together with joy. You have that desire in you just as much as I do. Whatever your explanation of the origin of a natural, human desire for community, the one thing that you cannot do is deny that it exists. I think the Christian explanation makes a great deal of sense. We simply desire community because we were designed with that desire. It is a good desire that was built into our species from the beginning. For those of you who do not embrace this type of understanding of creation, I would at least encourage you to make sure that your understanding takes into account this feature of reality. It needs to.
So, in conclusion, community feels great, but it is not good because it feels great. Instead, it feels great because it is intrinsically good, and I would contend that it is intrinsically good because God designed us and understood in His infinite wisdom that it is not good for man to be alone. I know that I am reaping the benefits of that goodness after last weekend, and I would encourage you, if you are not actively a part of some community, to find one. The church would be the ideal place to start. Naturally, the best communities are the ones that are based on the foundation of God’s Word. However, if you are not quite ready for that step, I would at least encourage you to do what is consistent with your human nature and seek out a community. You are designed this way for a reason, and you know what communities feel like from the ones you have been a part of before or are currently a part of currently. If you are missing that in your life right now, make it happen.