Community with women can be hard. We’re all a jumble of big hearts, emotions, and minds that can remember a long list of wrongs. Some of us approach community with no reserve and others are cautious. Still, we build these places in faith and long for community.
I recently spent time praying for and encouraging someone I know. Her story is one where hurt feelings led her to isolation…and isolation led to hurt feelings as she shooed her community off her bench. While she shared her story with me, I saw her locked away in a secret garden. She had Jesus with her, but had built up walls around her to keep people out.
The sad part is she didn’t see the walls of her own secret garden until I gently shed some light on them. And after she ran her hands along the ivy grown on garden walls, feeling the grit of brick below, something in her broke and she was ready to find the door and open it up again.
“I’ve dusted off my bench and invited her back in” she said in conversation about a friend.
And I prayed. Oh, how I prayed that the invitation would be received well.
But it wasn’t.
This bench proved to be too hard to return to. Years upon years of being kept away from it made it painful to even consider…hard to trust.
Life gets gray sometimes, and in that haze we can say or do things that hurt those we’ve shared a bench with. Suddenly, that welcoming and cozy place can become one that represents pain for those who were hurt.
What now? What do we do with a bench that triggers memories of pain?
In her offering this situation to God, He gently spoke to my friend’s heart. “A bench beyond repair won’t safely hold community. It’s time to build a new one.” He encouraged her to begin again, reaching out of isolation for hands to pull her back into community. Then, He perfectly placed hands to hold hers and helped her create a new bench.
She’s still prayerful for the restoration of that friendship, an acceptance to her invitation and forgiveness for years of pushing away. I’m praying for that for her, too. But in the meantime, she’s learning not to isolate. She’s learning to trust God’s design of community and knows that isolation only brings more isolation.
Can I encourage you today? If you’re finding yourself in the same position as my friend, it’s time. It’s time to pray and ask God to show you where the walls are in your garden. Ask Him to show you where the key is to the door and then leave the door to that secret, guarded place open. The bricks in the walls are made of the things too hard to admit or too embarrassing to apologize for. They are the “whys” and that’s what you need to discover. It’s time to let Him heal your heart. It’s time to trust Him and His people again, building a new bench and reaching out for hands to hold yours.
God means to restore community for you. He means to take that part of you that you’ve turned into isolation and turn it for His glory and your good. He means to help you finish the race well with friends who are bosom buddies; girls you can giggle with and love on and cry with. His idea of community is beautiful and trustworthy and all about you. You can trust that.