For the past four years I’ve lived in a house crammed full of bachelors. In fact, the word crammed might be an understatement. Our house, aptly named “the doodranch,” has been home to 22 different guys throughout the years. Some of those 22 guys have only stayed for a few weeks, and others have been here since it’s inception – with no end to their stay in sight. In some ways it’s been like a revolving door of young, single men – one leaves and the next comes in to take his place. But every one of the 22 bachelors who has called the doodranch home has been impacted by this house and the community it provides.
As you contemplate the doodranch I want to assure you that I know what you’re thinking. In fact I can sympathize with the image that must be running through your mind right now – images of a hairy, jungle-like abode with green stench rising from the roof and a fridge full of microwaveable meals & moldy hot dogs fills your mind. It’s okay. I totally understand. To be honest, sometimes our house does smell a little funky, and sometimes the fridge feels like pandoras box – when you open the door you never know what might fall out. Our sink has (once or twice) collected dishes – and on certain occasions those dishes have grown things. Living things. Things that refuse to die until we don rubber gloves and wage chemical warfare against them. Some days our bathroom looks like a war zone, our living room looks like the wreckage left from a fight between two large mountain trolls, and our ceiling — well, five years later we’re still not sure where that leak is coming from. But those of us who have lived here will tell you – we love this place and the community that we’ve found here.
Community at the doodranch is really simple – it’s just a bunch of guys doing life together. And it’s in the simplicity of that community that this house finds its beauty. We eat together, we play together, and we fight about who gets to take the next shower and use the rest of the hot water. We’ve shared our dreams, our failures, our victories and our losses with each other. We’ve traveled the world together (and yet we still argue about who will volunteer to drive us all five minutes down the road to eat dinner!). We’ve lost track of time as we’ve sat in our garage talking late into the night on warm summer evenings, and we’ve counted down the hours until one of us moves out and begins the next stage of life. We’ve watched each other get dumped, and we’ve helped each other battle butterflies before first dates. We’ve watched those first dates eventually turn into wedding days. We’ve been at each others throats, and we’ve had each others backs. The doodranch has brought us together as brothers. For that, we’re forever grateful.
All of these things have produced a deep love and respect for the doodranch in us. But as I reflect on my past four years in this house, I think its most lasting strength is how God has used it to shape, mold, and grow each of us to become more like Jesus. We’ve served at our church together, discipled each other, and we’ve modeled to each other in countless situations what it looks like to follow Jesus. We’ve wronged each other and extended grace and forgiveness when we’ve fallen short. We’ve read the Bible together, prayed with each other, and prayed for each other. For us, the doodranch has been a greenhouse for holiness and a glimpse of what fellowship will look like in heaven. It’s been a place where we’ve learned patience, kindness, service, humility, and so many other things pleasing to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong – the doodranch has been far from the perfect place to live. All of us, at some point during our tenure here, have wished that we could escape! It’s not easy living in such close community with each other. But the benefits of living in community have far outweighed the drawbacks. We’re thankful for the doodranch, and thankful for how God has used it in our lives.
So, what about you?
Are you experiencing true community? Have you let those in your family, friend-group, or church family get close enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly in your life? It’s easy to experience counterfeit community in an age of facebook likes and twitter follows. It’s so much harder to do life together in community, because genuine community involves real people with all of their sin, struggles, and (sometimes literal) messiness. But I speak for the family of guys who have called the doodranch home – my 21 brothers and I – when I say that we believe true community is worth it.
*I’ll be moving on from the doodranch soon to my next stage of life – to a new house, a new set of brothers, and a new city. You can read more about it here.