Written by Jason Emerson
Resurrection House program director and alum
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you; *
Growing up, I loved comic books. A common feature it seemed of every comic book was each super hero had an arch nemesis, an enemy that posed the the greatest threat to the hero because he or she knew the hero’s weakness. Our society does not value weakness. Somehow we are taught that admitting weakness will cause us to doubt ourselves. In our hyper-individualistic culture the cardinal sin is to doubt one’s self. To doubt that you alone by yourself can achieve whatever dream, task, or ambition…to doubt that by your actions you can satisfy whatever instant gratification you can imagine…to doubt these things is considered un-american at best and down right treasonous at worst.
I learned in my year as an intern that community is the antithesis of individualism. I served as a Resurrection House intern in 2001-2002, before ESC even existed, but the value of intentional community is common to all ESC programs and part of the founding ethos of the entire organization. I learned in Resurrection House that you can not have a community of individuals. It is impossible for a group of people to be individually self sufficient and be in community with each other. I did not know this coming into Resurrection House. Society had not prepared me to live in community.
My housemates and I, in order to be in community, had to learn to admit our need for each other. We had to admit we were not self-sufficient. Life in community is interdependent rather than independent, and we had to work hard to learn and practice interdependence.
Doubt can become the arch enemy of community. Doubt can prevent us from admitting our weakness. It can cause us to cling to our individualism because we doubt that we can be loved by others if we are weak. We can doubt that we are worthy of love from others and from God.
The readings for the first Sunday of Lent speak of baptism and Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Since we are in year B, we get the Markan version of the temptation which is terse and lacks plot or detail. It is merely one sentence, “He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” In the Lukan version we get more detail. Jesus repeatedly rebutts the deceiver, not by claiming strength, but rather admitting his dependence upon God, admitting his weakness, and trusting God. The psalm we pray on the First Sunday of Lent speaks of putting our trust in God.
Trust is the antidote to doubt. The experience of intentional community helped me to practice trust in the face of doubt. It helped me admit my weakness, helped me not be deceived by doubt, rather to look to God for redemption instead of myself. In admitting my incompleteness outside of community, I learned to be caught up in the community of the Holy Trinity. In learning to trust that my housemates would love me despite my weakness, I learned to trust God’s love too. Because of Resurrection House, my ability to trust grew so my faith grew and doubt diminished. When doubt returns I continue to practice the trust I learned in Resurrection House.