High Bar

On Saturday while driving home from an outing to IKEA and Bob’s Red Mill, Jason and I got to talking.  It’s not very glocal to drive 45 minutes from our home and buy products from a Swedish company, but the trip is totally worth it simply for the space to have a conversation with my husband while the children are contained and worn out enough to stop jabbering.

We talked about our participation in our community:  what does that look like?  How fully are we participating?  And why do we do it?  The words that kept coming to mind for me were High Bar.

I’m reminded of Dad’s teaching about the rich young man asking Christ what he needed to do to have eternal life.  Christ told him to give up his possessions, but the man chose not to, and walked away.  Oftentimes it seems the lesson that comes out of that story is how hard it is to follow Christ and have money (two masters stuff).   But Dad put a different spin on it:  he said it was about a high bar.

It seems as though the young man had been following Christ for some time and was basically asking what it took to be like (or to be) one of the disciples.  When Christ called the disciples, he said, “Come and follow me”.  Nothing about “pack up your bags, put your money into a long-term high-yield cd, and turn down your water heater”.  Just:  “Come.  Follow me.”  He set a high bar:  live in total reliance on the Father to provide, just as Christ lived.  The rich young man wasn’t able or willing to meet that high bar.  Christ could’ve lowered it as an exception for the young man, but would that really help anyone?  It would devalue the sacrifice of the other disciples, and it wouldn’t help the young man with his struggle with “two masters”.

I keep thinking that I want to be part of a High Bar group, that I can’t do this on my own, that I can’t live a High Bar life until I have a group who is committed to live the same way.  I look at Shane Claiborne, the Iona Community, the Church of the Apostles, the Mustard Seed Community, Christian Peacemaker Teams, groups who are making sacrifices to live in radical ways, ways they feel called to live into by God.  I hear about churches that have support groups for marriage, for money, for parenting, for redemption, for recovery, that set a high bar level of participation – and transformation seems to be happening!  I think about Graham Cooke’s Schools of Prophesy and communities he’s partnered with that move into cities and abandoned places to serve as God’s redeeming hands and feet.  Transformation!  The living out of the Kingdom!

This doesn’t come about from setting a Low Bar.  And yet I feel when I voice these dreams and desires and noticings of a High Bar Life that I’m perceived as idealistic, unreasonable, legalistic, crazy.  Should I care?  When should I follow those desires, and when should I heed the voices of my community?

I ache to be part of a High Bar group:  to do something radical, even as radical as seeking to have a Christ-like attitude while driving my son back and forth to school (something that really does drive me crazy).  Just for one year I’d like to live out some Grand Experiment with a group:  to lay aside things I cling to in my life and relentlessly listen to and respond to God.  I’m not sure what it would look like, but I ache to lean into it.

And then I wonder:  am I just being me-centric?  Is this something God’s calling me to, or is this me being idealistic and believing the grass is always greener?  What if it doesn’t look the way I think it should?  What if it’s right in front of my face and I’m ignoring it because I don’t like the way God’s engineered it?  When push comes to shove, would I make the sacrifice; or would I be sad, hang my head, and walk away?

What about the inner annointing of the Spirit?  Am I in need of community, or am I not trusting in God to be enough to teach and lead me?  Honestly, I fear expressing these desires in face-to-face conversations, because at least to date it feels like I have to explain and explain and rarely be understood, or I offend and then apologize lest I alienate.  At least God knows (even better than I do) what I mean, and better yet, what God means.  🙂

High Bar.  For some, this is a natural way to live.  For me, it’s going to take some work.  Now, whether in community or alone, will I step up?

13 thoughts on “High Bar

  1. starla

    How good it is to pray for others to work the trenches with you. I’m sorry that you are frustrated and feeling as though you are alone…or at least a minority.

    If ever you want to hang/process with someone outside your group, I’d love to grab coffee – or wine.

  2. Cherice

    Yup…I feel the same way constantly. I don’t know where that balance is between doing something “radical,” and living ordinary life in a “radical” way. I guess you just start with ordinary life and see where that leads. But it always feels so slow and I want to see transformation NOW! When you come up with a solution, I’m there with ya! =)

  3. Ashlee

    Hi:) Good thoughts, friend. I’m up to searching this out with you. Maybe it is time for something new.

  4. Leslie

    I have the same conversation in my head/heart every so often. It’s not necessarily nagging at me constantly because I’m good enough to stuff many, many emotions/thoughts but every now and then, it gurgles back up and I have to acknowledge it.
    Would my life be any different really? Or would it just look different on the outside, and I’d continue to have the same struggles on the inside? Thanks for blogging…punk.

  5. Judy

    Isn’t it interesting how Jesus’ words resonate with us individually in different ways, but always speaking truth? I can identify with your struggle to rely with complete confidence on God’s provision in every aspect of life. Perhaps for each of us there are areas we naturally trust him in, and other areas we find more difficult to trust him in. And every now and then we are struck with how little control we actually have over our lives, and how grateful we are that God DOES have control. One other thought: just because we need and value community does not mean the voice of our community supercedes the voice of God you are personally hearing. Hopefully, the community will confirm to you what you hear.

  6. Robin Mohr

    My own metaphor for this feeling is from When Harry Met Sally. Some people want high maintenance religion, and others want low maintenance. If I don’t want to reference a chick flick, I use cars. If you want high performance religion, it will be high maintenance.

    One Friend I know has just made it a priority to put whatever is happening at our meeting first on his calendar. Even if he doesn’t think he’ll like it much, he goes. He participates. He is a blessing to whatever group is meeting, and any leader. He himself is not very high maintenance in the WHMS sense, but he is willing to put himself out there. That might be one step towards faithfulness for you, but it’s trickier with kids.

    I sometimes say I already live in community. A community where half the people are not really pulling their weight in the housekeeping or emotional maintenance departments. But I am here, picking up the slack. Does that count as community service?

    Communities like the ones you listed come with benefits and a price. You have to give up other things, and so do all the people who come with you. What things, and often it is literally things but sometimes it’s more like privacy, would you like to or be willing to give up, if you had support?

    Have you heard about The Compact? The no buying anything new for a year project? I’ve known a couple of people who’ve done it, both with a local group and with a blog group. Would there be a small group in your church that would like to try something like that?

    The main point I think is that there will never be a large group that even wants to set the bar as high as you (or me). An even smaller group will really do it. You and Jason and one other family might be all you can find in your neck of the woods. It’s enough to start.

    May God continue to bless you with questions and courage and a hunger for righteousness.

  7. Martin Kelley

    All I can say is yep yep yep. This is what a lot of us are looking for. I know people who have gotten burnt out from the “High Bar” communities and their all-consumingness and yes, the grass is greener, but we should be aiming a lot higher than the sort of hour-a-week church that passes for committed these days. Radical and ordinary don’t really need to be mutually exclusive. I’ve lived in tight, committed communities and it’s not that hard if enough people are doing it with you.

    This summer I came to the realization that the Friends Meeting I commuted to was too far for me to be really involved and also too one-hour centric. Despite being in a Quaker-heavy geographic area, there’s not even a middling-bar Friends group in even moderately-close distance and if there’s a non-Quaker Christian group I don’t know of them. So this is our challenge perhaps.

  8. Jami

    For the past 30 years I have had the desire to live in that type of community. My former spouse, who died 5 years ago, and I were part of two groups over the years who tried unsuccessfully to start a co-housing community. One group met for about 2 to 3 years. In the end, people didn’t have the will, perseverance, stamina and whatever else it might have taken to jump through all the hoops necessary to live in proximity which, I believe, is the only way to be really supportive of each other in the “ways that are eternal”. Meeting once a week just does not foster the deep knowing of each other’s spirit. I think now that the only community that I may someday inhabit will be the old folk’s home. I am left wondering why I was given such a strong and enduring desire for community, but way never opened.

  9. Chris Mohr

    I think you should trust yourself on this one. Your desire for a “high-bar” life is real and honorable. And it seems like the other commenters would agree.

    Yet I would also like to offer a term that I first heard from a friend of mine who practices Sikhism. He said that in Sikhism (and Hinduism) there is a term called “householder.” This term designates the phase of life when people are called to live “ordinary” lives (raise families, keep a home whether it be a house or an apartment, perhaps deal with aging parents). It is a recognized part of the spiritual path.

    One of the tragedies of Jesus’s life to me is that he died so young, that he never had a chance to enflesh for us what living in the Kingdom of God looks like when your child is hungry and whiny, or has a wet bed, or has a runny nose and a fever, or needs to be driven to school. How do we follow Him in those situations?

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