I’ve started this post about the importance of being a part of a community, oh … I’d say at least twelve times. For some reason, I can’t find the right words for what I want to say. Connecting is tough.
Writing for (in)courage is often a real challenge for me. I adore this space and I’m humbled to have been a part of it from the beginning, but I still question what I have to offer. I do not feel eloquent or profound. I don’t often feel like I have something deep or spiritually enriching to share so I wonder if I should even show up.
And honestly, the real truth is I don’t always want to make the effort or take the time to share my life. That is a lot of pressure. Certainly there is someone else better suited for that task. I have other things to do today that are a little bit easier and more fun for me than heart sharing. Like maybe picking out curtains.
I sit here staring at a blank screen. So, I shut the computer and go eat brownies. Alone. It is not difficult to eat a brownie. Especially if you have milk. I can dip brownies in my milk and pick out curtains online and not have to care about anyone else but me. Me me me. It is like a party, except I’m the only one there.
I’m convicted about that. Because when I think that way, clearly I’m all about my comfort and my feelings and my big needs. I’m not thinking about you, I’m thinking about me. I’m taking the easy way out.
As I process what I’m trying to say here, I realize my rambling today on the struggle to write about community is what building a real community is like sometimes. It can be anxiety-producing. It is soul-revealing. It is hard work to be selfless and care about other people. We know we are called by God to love Him — and to love our neighbor. God gave each of us unique gifts that the body of Christ needs to thrive and effectively reach this world. We were created for community, that is God’s plan.
So why do we pull back and hold our hearts, our gifts and our time close to our chest, instead of opening up to community and becoming vulnerable enough to love and give like Jesus would? Why do we find so many creative excuses for not showing up, opening up or putting our hearts out there? Why is it so hard to connect and commit to a group of people?
Community is inconvenient and frustrating sometimes. It is easy to avoid connection when we make relationships more about ourselves than about really loving our neighbors. When the focus is on how we feel about the women we are called to connect with in our church or community (when we feel superior, inferior or indifferent to them) or how we feel about ourselves (on our own inadequacy or if we focus too heavily on getting own needs met), we can find all sorts of excuses to not love like Jesus.
If we are introverted or shy or quiet, if someone has offended us or hurt us or is plain old irritating to us, if we are struggling in some way, if our kids kept us up last night so we have bags under our eyes, or we are too tired from work or too busy with our personal life to give to a community, we have found a perfectly legitimate excuse for not connecting. Right? Circumstances are not optimal and community is inconvenient, so we should be off the hook.
I know for me, any excuse for avoiding community will do when I am looking inward instead of outward. Of course we have our own needs, but when getting our own needs met is our primary motivator for showing up (or not showing up as the case might be!), we can so easily slip into becoming consumers of community rather than being life-givers to a community.
There is so much blessing in faithfully showing up and being present in a community. We don’t need to show up because we feel a false sense of obligation or guilt or need more to do. But we show up to community in obedience to Him. Because community building is what He asks of us — to really love our neighbors. And in return we will grow in our faith and character and experience what God intends for us through community.
Community isn’t easy or perfect, but I’m excited to see what God will do when we make the commitment to show up and build healthy, thriving life-giving communities!
Do you struggle with being a part of a community?
I’m excited to be hosting an (in) Real Life meetup this Saturday, and I hope you will take that deep breath of courage to show up at a meetup near you! You can register for (in)RL here and find a meetup near you here.