Where is the Love?
Community can provide people of all ages the opportunity to engage with others in different developmental stages, those who have yet to fully develop cognitively and those who are experiencing cognitive decline. As society has become more spread out, many families live far away from their extended family, with parents and kids living hundreds if not thousands of miles away from their grandparents. The reality of this is that church might be the only place for some to experience intergenerational relationships. These relationships are not just for the benefit of the younger or the older generation, but rather through our mutual need for reciprocating relationships, we all benefit from being in a community with people in different states of life. The Eras tour is a great example of this. Taylor Swift provided a space for people of all ages to come together– grandparents and grandchildren, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, the list goes on and on, but Taylor Swift is the common thread that brought all of these unsuspecting people to the same place. She provided a space for those seeking something transcendent to be amongst like-minded others.
Isn’t that what a faith community is trying to do too? It seems like it is, but in many instances, something is missing. Church attendance is declining across all ages. Are the opportunities for transcendent experiences missing? Has it become less relevant? Perhaps the problem is that the church is not showing up authentically to love people well. After all, if we’ve learned anything from the Eras tour and the songwriting of Taylor Swift, it is that love is something transcendent that can always bring people back together.
This by no means shows us that love is easy, especially as we age. At the later end of middle adulthood (the sixties), both women and men reported a loss in personal growth, a decrease in a continued sense of purpose, and a declining optimism about continuing good health in the future (1). In times of crisis or in the wake of a natural disaster, we often see communities come together in profound ways, such as the pandemic. It is amidst moments of intense emotion and change, that transitions make us realize that we never outgrow our need for attachment and a community to belong to.
Finding A State of Grace
After debuting her Eras tour, Taylor went public with yet another romantic interest, NFL player Travis Kelcey. Her quest to solidify her identity formation is still evolving and changing as she too now moves into a season of solidification from young adult to middle adulthood. Identity formation and solidification are never finished, no matter how famous, no matter how successful, and no matter how old we are. We will never outgrow our need to have a purpose beyond ourselves. We all want to know we have agency to impact the world around us for good. We do this through seeking the transcendent in community, and we do this through being in relationships where the individual and the community are both seen as inherently worthy.
Maybe Taylor Swift was on to something when she wrote most of her music about the pangs of heartbreak and the elation of falling in love. The typical couple who marry while in their twenties can expect to live two-thirds of their life married together. That means most of their life is not characterized by heartbreak or falling in love, but rather a state of grace, where they constantly re-learn what it means to have to choose to love the other person.
As we have come to know, every life transition holds its own set of challenges and celebrations. Much like the lyrics of Taylor Swift capture the tension of living with a wide range of emotions, the community can embrace the full range of human emotion. A church community is not meant to be a perfect panacea, but rather a place where peace, not passivity, is sought amongst a community of others. In the face of the raw realities of life, we can come together to find common ground through growing communal roots, the need for which remains consistent regardless of age. In other words, as we transition through a faith community or faith communities throughout our lives, we are all looking for the same thing–a state of grace that compels us to love well and be loved well. This is something that God knew all too well when we were created–created for the connection that church community at its best stewards well. Maybe it’s time we got back to what brings us together, and that is our faith…that is love.
1. Balswick, J. O., King, P. E., & Reimer, K. S. (2016). The Reciprocating Self: Human Development in Theological Perspective. InterVarsity Press. 240.
Eras: What do Taylor Swift and the church have in common? (Part 1)
What can the church learn from the success of the Eras tour? Part 1 of a 3-Part Series.
Eras: No Longer Emerging but not Quite an Adult (Part 2)
What can the church learn from the success of Taylor Swift's Eras tour? Read more in Part 2 of a 3-Part Series.
Created for Community (Part 1): How We Moved Away From our Village
Humans thrive within community, but our modern age encourages poor relational habits. Think about the nature of your relationships with the help of the practice in this post.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get our 2024 February Thrive Calendar PDF.
You Got It!