Families in Lockdown: The Flatting Life

Community. It’s a funny thing, really: as humans we crave it, this sense of belonging, and yet it can also be our biggest source of hurt. Community can be intentional, or it can just happen naturally. It can be beautiful, but it can be painful. There is no one right way to do it, yet what I do know is this: we were made for community, to be in communion with each other and with God. “These strange and unprecedented times” (I promise, that’s the last time you’ll hear that phrase from me) have rudely interrupted our ways of community, our friendships, our rhythms. Whatever “community” means to you, it is no doubt demanding our attention; it can no longer be “Community As Usual”.

My current situation is lockdown in my Auckland flat with two of my flatmates, and with a quarter of my normal workload to keep me busy. None of us have family in Auckland. This time has proved a beautiful time of getting to know each other better, and all of us learning the art of grace. My flatmates are literally the only two people I can physically have a conversation with, give a hug, or look in the eye without a screen in between—I need them and I depend on them in ways I haven’t before. And in turn I know my way of being directly impacts them.

Together we have built new rhythms to give some shape to our weeks. Though the days could look the same, our weekends consist of a leisurely brunch and a walk together for at least a couple of hours. We now say, “what are we doing this weekend”, rather than asking each other, “what are you doing this weekend”.

Together we have learned. We can confirm rolling down grass hills is best suited for children, not adults; a rolling pin and bouncy ball make a very fine cricket set; and giving each other haircuts is a great way of building trust amongst yourselves, especially when one forgets to mention they have never cut anyone’s hair before.

The wonderful John Dennison wrote a couple of weeks ago in his piece “The Hiding Place” (go read it, or read it again), of how we are called to love (rather than manage) those we have been entrusted to live with. “Lord how do you want me to be today? How do I love these people today?” has been the refrain circling my mind to challenge “What do I want to achieve today?” Now I know for many people there are all manner of things that just need to be done, and many of these are right and good. In this season for me, though, right now, right here, I want to be attentive to what God is doing in and through these friends God has placed me with. It seems simple, but that is what this time seems to be doing, isn’t it: tearing away what we have made complex and revealing simple truths?

But enough thoughts, Lucy, what has this looked like? For me, loving my flatmates has meant remembering they have their own feelings and reactions, and that those are allowed to be different to mine. It looks like when I am having a great day, allowing them the space to have a “meh day”, and not trying to convince them of all the good things in the world, knowing the roles will likely be reversed sooner rather than later! It has looked like being honest and communicating our needs and feelings, and doing group fitness together in the backyard. It has looked like building a pillow fort on a Saturday night (it is still up five days later). And it has mostly looked like entering into conversations in the kitchen, the hallway, the doorway, and the tent in the backyard. And of course it has looked like food.

Community truly can be built around the dinner table, and this has become our daily point of connection where we gather, eat, and talk all things COVID-19 or anything but COVID-19. This is a place love can be given and received. My hope for you and your families and/or flatmates is that this time would draw you back to the table, that this would be a sacred place of communion with each other and with God. And a place of chaos, laughter, and freedom to come as you are. Oh, and the odd food fight thrown in for good measure.

(Image supplied)