The Perfect Community

Every summer I tell myself that I am NOT organizing the annual block party and every summer … I do it anyway. If someone were to ask me why, I’d tell them: Because I can’t find a reason not to.

Circumstances allow it.

My husband supports it.

And the hassle I go through to find a date that works for everybody pales in comparison to the sense of community it creates for the people who live on our street. Community in the form of children playing tag in the empty lot a few houses down from ours. And a driveway full of adults dancing to music provided by my neighbor’s son, who is in a band.

Knowing that the outcome is worth the effort I put into it should be enough but, sometimes I just want to enjoy a night out without first having to organize it. Event planning was something I did a lot of when we lived in Nebraska. Because our church and neighborhood were both relatively new, many of the programs that I wanted to participate in did not exist. And so I spent countless hours spearheading everything from fall festivals to summer field trips, childcare coops to supper clubs, and ministry fairs to marriage retreats.

I was ready to taking some time off from serving when Bill and I flew to Chicago to search for a new place to live. His company was relocating us to Illinois and I saw our move as an opportunity to find a church and neighborhood where I could feel like I belonged without having to create the camaraderie.

The problem with goals is that they don’t always agree with God’s will. When this happens, we can accept the hand that He has dealt us or attempt to force our own. I begrudgingly chose the former when the house that had everything we were looking for was on a street where residents barely knew each other’s names. I also acquiesced after it became clear that God was nudging our family to join a smaller congregation instead of the mega-church that I had so wanted to call my own.

As I look back on those decisions and how they motivated me to organize the block party on our street and a newcomer’s ministry at my church, it’s clear that the perfect place for any of us is not the one that has everything we want, but the one with needs that only we are gifted to fill. And what seems like settling is actually submitting to a plan that is better than our own.

Thinking of the ideal in these terms makes me ashamed that I ever considered not having a block party. It also makes me wonder: What the world would be like if every move was based, not on what the new location can do for us, but on how we can make it better for others?

God wants all of us to live on the perfect street and to belong to the perfect church, but it’s up to us to create it. I was tempted to pass this lesson along at our last block party when I heard a man from another suburb say: “I want to live in Elmhurst. We don’t have block parties like this where I live.”

“You don’t need to live in our community,” I said to myself. “You just need to bring a little of it, to yours.”

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21