Relationships of ALL types grow our faith. I was recently reminded of this as I sat listening to a diverse group of women share their hearts in my church’s community group. God continues to show me the power of community, particularly the kind that happens without my manipulation and control. I was shown that I serve a God who is far bigger than my tiny homogenous world I try to construct.
Why do I put my energies into creating an inner circle of “perfect” friends so that I can live in a Christian version of a TV show where everyone effortlessly shares all of life’s intimate moments from the sacred to the hilarious? I can easily convince myself that the Gospel has something to do with being surrounded by people who are exactly like me. I don’t think we can escape living in a broken world, but I want to wade through this life with people who have the same budget as me, have kids the same age, and have the same sense of humor and style. They must also duplicate the exact same beliefs as me. Their theology, language, and Christian sub-culture must mimic mine. I simply want it to be easy.
It is a fact that God made us for community. We all desire to be accepted and we all have needs that are met through relationships in our lives.
But there is this blurry line that is hard to see when we cross it. There’s this place we can end up where we have shut out people that God places in our paths for specific reasons, whether to be an influence or to grow us. When you surround yourself with people who are just like you, you are validated, praised, and admired just the way you want to be. But I am seeing that God leads people into our lives for His purpose, not our own.
Recently, new relationships in my life are with people who are not just like me. They have different backgrounds, beliefs, ways of life, and priorities, and many are in a different season of life. I find myself struggling to relate. I want them to “get” me without putting in effort. I want to halfway explain something and then say “y’all know what I mean” and have them automatically and thoroughly understand the depths of my soul. This limits spiritual, emotional, and mental growth.
Isn’t it better to allow ourselves to be stretched and to allow God to show us things through others who have seen life through a totally different lens? Knowing where people are entails us actually taking the time to get to know them, and then caring enough not to force them to see things our way. When I do this, I am changed.
In this small group of women, I hear someone praying in a foreign language and am reminded that God hears the prayers of all his children around the globe. I witness the excitement of new believers, and, thankfully, it rubs off on me.
Above all else, we are to love one another. I am trying to follow this simple command and not whine when no one in my life “gets” me. Whether or not it conveniently fits into the screenplay I’ve naïvely written for my life, that is not really the point of it all. I am called to love my neighbor, no matter who they are. The miracle is that I end up on the receiving end as well, oftentimes receiving more than I give.