In the deepest part of my soul lies a dichotomy. Scar tissue gaping from fresh wounds in the same place where beauty is emerging. Pain mixed with kindness.
Isn’t that where grace flows? Splintered wood, spilt blood, love poured out.
Years of my life have been soiled with an injured heart turning inward to a dark cloak of isolation, self-pity.
But something is shifting in the layers of pumping flesh — a metamorphosis is taking place as my cocoon of fear and shame has burst open. A flutter, as the Father gently guides me to press into discomfort, risking vulnerability in spite of heartache.
What does authentic grace-filled community look like? I’m not completely sure, but His Word and my heart’s desire unfurl this path:
Authentic community is safe.
Safe community involves guarding one another in love — each person’s story sacred, an interweaving of their life into the bigger redemptive theme of God’s story.
As iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17, Hebrews 4:12), safe community involves diving into God’s Word to edify and hone one another, calling each other to more. This also involves battling for one another against evil.
Safe relationships involve grace — forgiving one another and overlooking offenses as we hold tightly to the One and only perfect Savior (Colossians 3:13).
Often the safety net of community involves speaking truth in love, which may wound (Proverbs 27:6); however, the love for one another seeps to the root of Christ. He is the focus. Always.
There is freedom to love, repent, pray, and fight for one another because safe community believes the best about each other and builds up (Ephesians 4:25). Just as Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses, safe community involves holding up the arms of one another. Real community bears each other’s burdens and endures (Galatians 6:2).
Authentic community is vulnerable.
Vulnerability involves strength and a willingness to be wounded for a greater purpose — personal spiritual growth and the good of others.
The foundation of trust and safety first lies in our standing of who we are in Christ. This, along with safe community, should create a space which grants freedom to take off our masks, becoming vulnerable to share our brokenness and sin (James 5:16).
We are able to give ourselves to others because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).
Authentic community is life-giving.
A community that is life-giving leaves us with hope.
Like stepping outdoors on a gorgeous spring day, our lungs filled to capacity with fresh sun-kissed air, life-giving relationships fill our spirits with kindness, hope, and a deep longing for the Father.
I think of a lavish dinner a girlfriend recently blessed me with. Surrounded by china and the light of candles, our conversation flowed with the flavorful seasoning of laughter, sorrow, and hope.
It was glorious and worshipful. It was a night that was life-giving.
Authentic community is restful.
Restful community is equivalent to wearing your most cozy pajamas. You don’t care if you’re not wearing make-up or if there are holes in your shirt.
Rest happens with friends who love you deeply, those who truly know you and choose you. Whether you are curled up with a cup of coffee overlooking the lake on a girl’s weekend or hovering over mounds of plastic toddler toys on a playdate, you experience deep soul rest and more of the Father.
Authentic community is, in fact, a taste of heaven.
Rest also requires the willingness to give and receive — a humble reliance on the Spirit to work through others for our good and for personal spiritual growth.
The more we exercise our muscles in safe, vulnerable, life-giving, and restful community, the more we can experience the grace, love, and kindness of a Father who desires to give us good gifts (James 1:17).
Related: For a beautiful reminder of the kind of community we want to create, hang this wall art where you’ll walk past it every day and remember To Act Justly and To Love Mercy ~ (in)mercy 16 x 20 Poster.