Far be it for me to gush over my commitment to her as you shift uncomfortably in your seat. This is, instead, a lament for the lack of commitment I must display in every other facet of my life; most notably, church. As I moved to London, it was with one simple mantra: ‘Find a church, build a life.’ But how do you cultivate genuinely intimate community when you are unable to be emotionally dedicated or even physically present in your own city?
There certainly isn’t just one answer, and I am by no means an expert. However, here are a few things I’ve been teaching myself through the process. They’re not easy, but with a bit of luck maybe they’ll prove to be doable.
1. Be proactive
I don’t like sticking my neck out for myself. I can’t help but see it as the pushiness that I admire so little in others. I’ve always thought that if you’re truly talented and/or passionate, people will see it; you needn’t offer your services because they’ll simply be requested of you. If your situation is anything like mine, this will not work. It only happens from within a community. If you’re only sporadically there, you’ll never break in. If all you do is rock up on a Sunday, they’ll never know you well enough to draw out your gifts. So get involved. Tell people what you’re good at and get yourself on a team. Knowing your strengths isn’t the same thing as pride.
2. Be honest
People are bound to realise that you have a significant other elsewhere – that’s not what I’m talking about. You need to show people that you’re making every effort to commit. When you have to miss church to catch a plane, let them know you’re gutted that you can’t do both. Tell them that it’s hard, and why. You’d be surprised how many people have done the long-distance thing, and they’ll probably understand. Rightly or wrongly, the more people think you’re investing in them, the more they’ll invest in you.
3. Be persistent
It’s not personal. If someone doesn’t invite you to one of their shindigs, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. You’re just not on their radar. So often I’ve been tempted to sit indignantly at the back of a new church and think, ‘well if they’re not a welcoming church, they’re not a church that I want to be part of!’ But that’s not helping me, and it’s not helping my friend-to-be who (for whatever reason) isn’t brave enough to come up and talk to me either.
4. Consider whether you’re apart for a good reason
Bit of a curveball in this list, I’ll admit, but don’t underestimate the sacrifice that might go with living apart. It’s possible that missing your loved one may not be your greatest loss as a result (though I can testify that this loss is significant). To live two lives in two different cities means only really dipping your toe in either one. Absolutely there are good reasons for being separated for a time; just make sure yours is one.
Gotta dash; my Eurostar’s boarding…