There is power in a circle.
There is tension in a circle: an infinite number of points presses out from a central point of unity. There is balance in a circle: each of the infinite points is equally distant from the center of the circle.
A circle is circumscribed infinity.
Recently, I sat in a circle with a group of spiritual pilgrims. We were enclosed by a grouping of rocks that had been formed into a circle by water and time. A rock bowl about half full of sand. We were asked to sit in the circle, in a circle, for fifteen minutes. I wanted to connect. I was there to connect. But with what? With whom? What would happen to me if I did? The wind was cold. The sand under me was cold. I wasn’t sure what to feel.
The timer was running. I drew a spiral in the sand. My mantra, “I am here, here I am,” marched through my head in a tirade of meditation. Had it been five minutes? I could hear people shifting. I was uncomfortable. I dug my fingers into the sand to anchor myself? to connect with the earth? to keep my fingers warm? What happens if you come to a place to connect and nothing happens. Does that mean you were unable, unwilling, alone? Ten minutes? One of the people in the circle was glowing red in the light of the setting sun. I could feel tension pouring off of me. Olive green energy. Pressure. Had I been a yogi, instead of a stiff-and-pudgy, I would have pressed my forehead to the ground. I felt the tension of the circle. Twelve minutes? A hawk flew over with a baby rabbit in its talons while seagulls tried to steal its dinner. My mantra fell apart. I just sat.
The air around me thinned by twilight.
It made no sense.
Because folded into this tumult was peace: the infinity of now. I knew, with the certainty of light, that some part of me had and would sit in that circle for the infinity of a moment. Maybe someday that part of me will figure out what it is to sit in a circle. Maybe not.
For those of us who focus our ministry on the development of missional communities, the term “new monasticism” is a real pain in the neck. It is a very precise and appropriate term, but because most people don’t really think about monasticism at all, the distinction between “new monasticism” and “ old monasticism” is lost on them. New monasticism is really all about being a new kind of monk in the twenty-first century, a person who chooses to live in a Christian community with a focus on service, especially with the poor and marginalized.*
I don’t live in intentional community. I live on a cul-de-sac. In the suburbs. There is a Home Owner’s Association. The grass in my front yard cannot exceed eight inches.
Behind the ruled lawns, there are people. While we all found our way to this place independently, our lives are becoming lived together, intentionally. At the Missional Wisdom Foundation, we have a Rule of Life.** It is the medium through which hospitality becomes Hospitality.
What does it mean to live in community? It means being where you are. It means to love and share generously. It means to break bread together. It means to sit on the porch and wonder aloud. It means to welcome the marginalized. It means to live life, your life, intentionally.
A cul-de-sac is a circle.
And I have seen the power of a circle.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
One of the most intimidating things about missional communities is the idea of living in community. Spend some time this week wondering about what that means for you. Is community expanding the circle of your home to include your neighbors? Is God calling you to step outside of where you are or go further in? In the words of Meindart DeJong, “Who wondered...? And where did it lead you?”
*Elaine A. Heath and Scott T. Kisker, Longing for Spring (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010).
**Elaine A. Heath and Larry Duggins, Missional. Monastic. Mainline. (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014), 32.