Losing the Greatest Community of My Life

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Two years ago, I moved away from an incredibly close community of guys. I first met these guys during my first year of Bible college. We all lived in the same dorm, and we grew incredibly close. I disclosed my attraction to the same sex to all of them just a month or two into the semester.

They were all so incredibly loving and supportive, it was an SSA guy’s dream, being close friends with ten straight guys. I ended up living with many of these guys for five years, some of the greatest years of my life.

We had our ups and downs, but our community shared a deep intimacy.

One by one, they all got married, and I moved away because of school internships. As a result, I fell into a deep depression. I entered a new environment and tried making new friends and building a deep, intimate community, but I was so afraid that it would not compare to the same community I once experienced.

Even though I kept long distance relationships with my friends from home, I longed for them daily. I desired their hugs. I missed the deep conversations around a cigar and whiskey. I wanted to watch Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Top Gear with them. Going to the gym and lifting weights was not the same without them. I smoked less cigarettes around them, back when quitting cigs seemed like more of a possibility.

My life was better and more emotionally stable with these brothers regularly in my life.

Once I moved away from my brothers, my life grew characterized by smoking cigarettes, watching porn, and a creeping apathy in daily life. One day, I wrote a not so technically brilliant poem to describe this period of life:

My daily routine.

Wake up.

Smoke a cigarette.

Drink my coffee.

Try to pray.

Try to read my Bible.

Go to work.

Stare at the screen.

Get life sucked out of me.

Lack of productivity.

Go home.

Eat dinner.

Lay down.

Watch a screen.

Throw a tissue in the trash.

Smoke a cigarette.

Go to an empty bed.

A waste.

My days lacked purpose or joy. When I came home to my place at the end of the day, the silence screamed at me. I just so badly wanted to walk into a place where someone was making a meal and somebody else was reading a book or watching TV.

I tried quitting cigarettes many times, but without the support of my friends I found it to be nearly impossible.

This seems bleak, but things have slowly started to change.

I am now a part of a loving church community. Even though it is difficult starting a new community from scratch, the local church is stepping in.

Historically, the church had a positive view of single people and provided community for those people. But the church has lost that. My church is regaining that high view of singleness. Families invite me over to their homes for dinner or an evening tea. The older ladies make me frozen dinners so that I can have homemade meals like my mom used to make.

I also recently found an accountability group of guys in my church. It has gotten to the point where I feel comfortable inviting myself over to people’s homes.

My new community will not look the same as it did in the past, but I am finally escaping that loneliness through the body of Christ.

Everyone welcome our newest blogging brother, Will! For the comments below: Did you ever experience deep community only to leave that community or have that community removed from your life? How did you rebound, or are you still struggling to recapture that intimate community of old?

* Photo courtesy chefranden, Creative Commons.

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  • JDM89

    Welcome aboard, blogging brother Will! I’ve been lurking around here for maybe a month or two. I figure with this being your first post here, now would be a good time for me to stop lurking and say hi to you and my other brothers.

    Also, I feel like I can relate to your situation here. I graduated from college in 2015. I had a group of roommates I felt very close to. All of us were roommates for three years. Then we graduated and went our separate ways. I now work in my hometown and live with my parents. I love them to death, but it’s a very different community than what I had become accustomed to when I was in college.

    I still feel myself longing for that time, which I still consider to be one of the best periods of my life thus far. I also long for that close connection with other guys around my age – just knowing that I had a tight-knit group of guy friends. I don’t have anything like that in my hometown, unfortunately, and there aren’t a lot of members of my faith around my age here.

    I am looking at moving back to the state where I went to college, and I’m blessed to have some other very good friends (not all guys) over there who would welcome me back with arms wide open. There is hope on the horizon.

    Will, tonight I’ll pray that you’ll continue to feel the salve of comfort that comes through finding community in Christ. Thanks for your words and sharing your story; I feel as if they were written especially for me. I look forward to reading more posts!

    • Will Cooper

      Thanks for the warm welcome! I am glad that you could relate to the post so well, and I pray that you can build up a new community, that God provides you with good people to be open and close with. It seems as if people experience their greatest community in college, and then they dismiss it by saying it was just a time in life, not all of life can be like that. I struggle with that, sure in college there was immaturity and it is good to mature in life, but the very idea of doing life together in shared environments is not just a college thing, but should be all of life.

  • Kevin Frye

    Hey Will!!! I’m so glad you’re here!
    Yeah, community, man….. YWAM for me. I loved it, hated it; it was the hardest thing I had done in my life up to that point and, in spite of all of my mistakes in it, it was the best thing I’d ever done. I still miss it sometimes. I’m still looking for community now in my thirties. Being married and having kids is not the same as being in a community and having fellowship.

    • Ian Anthony

      YWAM for me as well. For the last 12 years… people come and go. I am also now in my early thirties… and sometimes it gets exhausting thinking of building new relationships with people with no assurance of how long they will be around. But I have found that relationship building is always worth the risk. I’ve also learned I cannot be so picky, I used to imagine who my ideal community would be and the personalities it would consist of… that led me nowhere with a lot of unmet expectations. Learning to build with who is around me, those who are open, authentic and genuine, finding and building on that that is pretty amazing.

      • Kevin Frye

        Very true; we can’t tailor our communities to make ourselves happy. We’ll only end up disappointed and frustrated. What do you do in YWAM these days?

        • JDM89

          This is probably something I should already know, but what does YWAM mean?

          • Eddie

            Youth With A Mission… a global movement of Christians from many cultures, age groups and Christian traditions doing missionary work.

          • JDM89

            Thanks, Eddie! I’d never heard of it before. I just looked it up and it looks like a great organization/movement.

        • Ian Anthony

          Hey kevin, I work with DTS’ and training at our base, also do a lot with worship ministry. Where did you do your DTS? Were you on staff somewhere for awhile?

          • Kevin Frye

            I did my DTS in Charlotte, North Carolina. I never went on staff. I was planning to attend the University of the Nations, but I left YWAM right after my DTS ended and never went back, because I believed God was telling me to move on to something else. Of course I continued to stop by the base from time to time to visit people since I lived in Charlotte then anyway, but I never took any courses with YWAM again.

          • Ian Anthony

            That’s cool. I did mine in Hawaii and was there for a while. The last few years moved to Europe and am part of a really great base there these days.

    • Will Cooper

      Hey Kevin! For some reason there is a mentality that family fulfills all of a person’s needs for community, the problem is that I know plenty of married folk who are incredibly lonely. We all need to do life together with other people and going through the crap of life together, but families often live in their separate incomplete communities and not interact with other families and single people. I think that is why people often experience great community with YWAM, they are forced to do life together and not live as separate entities. I did YWAM as well back in the day. I had my huge struggles with YWAM, but I enjoyed the community that was developed.

      • mistaken identity

        Welcome Will! I enjoyed the post.

  • Welcome Will !!!
    I have a sense of community with my men’s Bible study group but not closeness. The real sense of closeness and community I feel is with my addiction recovery group at Celebrate Recovery. There, they don’t care if I am SSA. They care about my addiction to porn (been clean seven months now) and my struggles with celibacy (almost 13 years now). It is a kind of nurturing I had never felt before and I look forward to going the meetings every week. For a long time I didn’t I needed anybody; now I can’t imagine life without them.

    Here is a link to my blog so you can get know me better:
    https://brokenbutredeemedblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/14/introduction/

  • Zach Holzer

    It really is hard to leave the only community you’ve ever known. And I can tell from very recent experience that I feel the same way you do! I didn’t come to Christ until college, and so for me community was completely foreign until I got involved in my college ministry. I was really uninvolved as a new Christian, and my faith got put on the backburner for the rest of my freshman year, but after a rough summer at home (feeling isolated, confused, frustrated, and often lonely), the next year I jumped in head first and became close with quite a few people. I started being discipled by a guy three years older than me, I joined a co-ed small group, and I did all the events possible. It became my home. They knew my deepest hurts and struggles, and loved me despite those flaws and wounds. I felt like Harry Potter. Home for me wasn’t home anymore. College and my lifestyle there was. And it was that way for six years.

    Then I graduated. And I tried to stay in Muncie so I could be among that same community. But God kept shutting doors, and eventually the same guy who had been discipling me for five years asked me: “Is your desire to stay out of calling or out of fear?” And, of course, he didn’t need my response, because he already knew the answer. I was holding on too tightly to the life that I wanted to preserve. But God calls us to follow him, and to lose grip of the control factor we so desperately cling to. But I even knowing that, I still didn’t like it. 😉

    I started applying for jobs outside of Muncie. I applied to a job in Indy (only an hour away). I had an interview two weeks following that conversation. Four days later I got the job. And nothing has been the same since. God opened that door for a reason. I moved to Indianapolis, lived with family to save money, but the coolest part was I would spend that entire summer prior to the new school year living in Indy and getting involved in my new church, and then live the other half of the week back in Muncie. And I started to like living in Indy more…God was doing some cool stuff in my heart! And I’ve been blessed with solid community that knows service and community well…pretty much like the church I went to first. Cool stuff God. Way to be.

    I say all this because I spent a lot of my waking hours in that phase afraid of losing the community that I once had. But as soon as I took the leap of faith God started revealing exactly why he wanted me to leave. Not because he didn’t like the community I was in, but because he wanted me to trust that he would lead me to where I needed to go next, without fear of regret. And I also wasn’t lead out of Muncie just because of my job. I was meant to get invested in the community I am now a part of, despite how difficult it can be relating with families instead of just young singles between the ages of 18 and 25. It’s been a nice transition, still filled with trials and difficulties like you said, but God has been working through those relationships and allowing for intimacy with others. And heck, I still get to visit Muncie as much as I want! So, really, I got the best of both worlds. It’s hard, but it’s refreshing to know that once God lays the foundation and paves the way for us to take that step, he grows those seeds that we are often too afraid to plant. Love this post! Sorry my response was so long!

  • mike

    Howdy Will :). A recurring theme for me — losing community! Periods of feast and famine when it comes to affirming relationships either because I move away or close friends do.
    I’m in a famine time now (again). I say to God why again??? Why do you give me close friendships for accountability only to take them away? From like times before I learn that desert intervals are there for a reason. I guess different ones for each of us. Me, it’s to re-establish intimacy with Jesus. I too easily seek to replace that with human friendships…
    But “My church is regaining that high view of singleness.” I marvel at that Will! That is a good church Will. Before any church can serve SSA’d folk there must be that I think. How did that happen? What was the catalyst? I want that for my church so much. I hope you post more about that Will.

  • Ken Chen

    Oh man, this is a damn honest post. My life is almost like yours. Although I live with housemates, but I don’t have too much conversation with them. My biggest fear is when I have good friends getting engaged or married. My life routine is exactly like yours… just take out smoking cigarettes.

    • Will Cooper

      Thanks! I like being pretty honest and blunt. For a while I thought that by living with other people it meant that I was in community, but life can be just as lonely even if you are in close proximity with others. I had the same fear as yours, all my close friends were dating, and I knew they were going to get married soon. That was a rough period of my life, and I will probably write about that soon.

  • Jeff Brady

    Transition is hard. Finding new friends is harder, especially as you age. Make the most of the ones you find. Enjoy them for as long as they are available to you. Do not fault them for moving on or into relationship with others or even a significant other. Some of us have not been able to do that last bit…because we can’t. If we did, even more relationships would end including the most important one.

    We are called to live in a way that does not seem natural to us to please our Creator. Since this is the case, we cannot be like the others unless we sell out to what our flesh wants. No best friend or straight guy is going to make us anything other than what we are. We have no choice but to transition when our straight friends leave us and we have to continually keep ‘healthy boundries’ with our non straight friends.

    It’s all very tiresome, but we have to do it . His strength and grace is magnified in our weakness. We bring glory to Him through our suffering. It’s all that should matter and yes, it’s easy to say that, but it’s the facts.

    Welcome to our world Will Cooper.

  • Welcome, Will!

    There have been several times in my life when I experienced the loss of community you described. The last time I felt it deeply was a few years ago when I was living 3000 miles away from my long time friends. I eventually decided to move back to where they were and I have never regretted that decision since!

    I am well over 40 and single, but God has blessed me with deep connections with several Christian guys, many living in the same house with me. I feel like I am currently living an SSA guy’s dream like you did! We laugh together, work through disagreements together, and even cry together in times of grief. Someone is showing me heartfelt love every day and I get many hugs. This is worth more than the best job or the best house. I thank God and pray for the same for you guys reading this!

  • Great to have you with us, Will! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful though tragic though hopeful story. How awesome that you even got to experience such a time of intimate community. Prayers for the road ahead and that we’ll all live in such ongoing community one day.

  • Eddie

    Greetings Will! This is a great subject for a post to start out with. During my first year in college, I had become seriously depressed as I was in an environment without any friends. My roommate was just that my roommate and he had his own friends. I know! It is presumptuous to thimk that your first roommate will be your first best friend in college as well. Needless to say freshman year was a struggle. It wasn’t until my sophmore year that my new roommate was a Christian and he introduced me to the local campis minstry his older brother was a part of already. This was my first community and it helped me to connect with people with a common interest and love for Jesus. They helped me get out of my depression and provided a place to love and be loved. Until I had to leave them and moved south to be with my family. My second community, a Christian campus fellowship, didn’t start until I came back to school in 1995. By now I would be on the verge of graduation, but this got delayed. Here I also got the affirmation and affection I so desired from a “family” especially a group of brothers. Yet this had an ending as well as I eventually graduated, parted ways and returned home to look for work. When I returnes I gained yet a third community at my parents’ local church. This was a bit more longstanding, but again people pursued marriage, moved or otherwise feel out of touch. Today I keep a small community with a few OSA guys who don’t appear to be pursuing any LTR, marriage or family pursuits. I just seem to jump from one so-called community to the next with no promise it will ever last. And now I’m trying to expand and foster community with other SSA guys via an online community. I reboind by reaching out every so often. Isolation breeds depression. It may appear I do it for selfish reasons, but I see it as an exercise i self preservation. Regardless, I want the relatuonship or relationships to be healthy ones and not codependent arraignments. I should be grateful and hopeful being a part of the family of God that is everlasting.