We have all heard the idiom before.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.” This proverb, attributed to Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Lion, while possibly true for wild animals, has not proven to be the case for our students at Blake Street. I recently asked one of our residents to share a little bit about the relationships in the home, and I think you’ll see from her reflections that after six months of living in community it is obvious that at Act Five what familiarity breeds is compassion.
The night before I moved into 75 Blake St. I was up all night with butterflies in my stomach. My mind raced thinking about all the people I was about to move in with. A year ago, if someone had told me that I would be living in a house downtown Hamilton with eighteen others, studying the Bible, considering faithful living and vocation, and going on wild adventures, I would have absolutely thought they were crazy. But here I am, a year later, convinced that the relationships formed at Act Five are ones that will last a lifetime.
Now that we’re into second term, I can already see a shift in these relationships. Don’t get me wrong, the first term was amazing, but we were strangers. When we played board games, we quieted our inner competitive streaks and held back from sharing too much too soon. Another student noted this week during Soul Care that “we bonded through the rain and mud of the canoe trip. We learned to trust one another even though we didn’t really know one another.” And it’s true. Mutual trust grew in the fall as we collectively experienced new things, as we rode the ups and downs of building community. Without knowing it, we laid a foundation.
And now, our relationships are deepening.
Before the unexpected challenge of a house wide lockdown we all took part in our very own 48h prayer marathon. We chose a room in the house to decorate as our own and filled it with artwork and notes. The space took on a peaceful aura as everyone signed up for one-hour timeslots. While we’ve been learning about some of the classic spiritual disciplines (solitude, silence, etc), this was our chance to put them into practice.
The prayer room motivated us to get on our knees, but you couldn’t deny that the Winter Blues had still settled in. Attuned to the mood in the home, the resident leaders came up with a body care challenge to get us outside. Using the popular app Strava everyone in the house began tracking their activity for the sweet prize of a one-hundred-dollar MEC card. The healthy folks in the home prepared food for those who were isolating, and we learned how to be dependent on one another on a whole different level. It is one thing to carry someone’s pack on a canoe trip; it’s another to prepare soup for days on end when the whole household is in isolation. And so, the prayer room and some friendly competition became the antidote to our collective malaise. We had deep conversations during the quiet of isolation that drew us closer together. I think we got to know one another more in those first ten days of semester two than we did the entire first term.
I love how our students are seeing the beauty in ordinary days, in ordinary time.
Last week we explored the discipline of confession, and what it means to be a confessional community that acknowledges our brokenness before God and to one another. We added a confession booth to the prayer room and students wrote anonymous prayers in a community journal. One of our resident leaders said, “I can love you only as much as you let me know you”—how true! We are learning to bring our whole selves—our unmasked selves—into relationships, the workplace, and our communities. As we prepare to send students out into the future, we send them out as people who are learning that to be known is to take risks, but that the fruit of those risks is deep trust.
Despite whatever scorn the world may bring, we rest in the assurance that we serve a God who is familiar with all our ways and doesn’t not hold us in contempt. Amen!
We would love it if you can support us in continuing to live out our ever-growing mission—both in discipling young adults and in growing our faithful presence on Blake Street and in Hamilton. Here is how you might support us: