For over 5 years, I lived without belonging to a church. In college, I had been hurt by the church I grew up in, and for 5 years I wasn’t brave enough to seek out community again. Fear bound me, keeping me rooted in the pain and loss of community, and I struggled to overcome it.
Keeping to myself seemed easier. There was less risk, and my faith didn’t seem to be suffering. I clung to Jesus, but stayed away from a community that did the same. And while I did attend a church service here and there, I sat quietly in the pews, rushed out at the end, and made sure I didn’t show the vulnerable, still-bleeding parts of me that secretly longed for community.
I journeyed alone, for the most part. My faith was inward-focused, growing slowly but one-dimensionally. I was learning, but I wasn’t being challenged or held accountable by those who truly knew me.
Growing my faith — while keeping to myself — was like trying to grow a garden in the desert sand.
About a year and a half ago, I finally began to seek out a faith community again, tired of fighting alone against the world. I finally admitted to God that I needed a real-life faith community, a realization that came from finding a faith community online. And so, one Sunday morning in April, I sat down in the comfy chair in a church I had been to a few times before, scared anyone would approach me while desperately wanting to belong.
The lights dimmed and the music started, and a few minutes in, I knew that was where I belonged.
My journey towards community was long and winding, with unnecessary delays and detours, and many bouts of stubbornness along the way. And the reality is that community looks different for everyone. When I lived in Africa, I found an online faith community that encouraged me and inspired me in many ways. After 5 years of avoiding churches like the plague, they led me, upon my return to the United States, to join a church whose tagline is “we journey together.”
That online community built me up and encouraged me when I would’ve otherwise been completely alone. The ladies gave me healing and strength, encouraging me to be brave when all I wanted to do was shrink back. They gave me a church when I wasn’t able to find one myself, and reminded me that community wasn’t created to hurt, but rather to bring joy. And now, while I do attend a physical church, these ladies are my online church, friends who know me. We journey together.
Whether your community is online, in your home, at work, or in a church, we all need to journey together. When we have a strong faith community, our faith moves in unexpected ways. It reverberates off of those around us, stretching and growing, turning a one-dimensional faith into something multi-dimensional.
Faith is moving forward, and moving forward in community is a beautiful thing.
I had no idea what God would do when I finally committed to joining church again last year. But I knew I was tired to journeying alone.
Because we are made to journey together.
Related: Extend a welcome to all who enter your home by displaying this fun pillow that says We are always better together.Leave a Comment
Rebecca Jones says
There is anyone who hasn’t been hurt by someone in church. Once you’ve given your heart to Jesus, it’s tender. We should all remember that.
Marisa Slusarcyk says
Love you and your words Jen! Your heart is clearly for God and I love that you are being obedient to Him now in helping others experience community -big or small. Praying for you and your church as you journey through Cambodia over these next days!
Love your story of how you found church. God knew all along what you needed and that is we are made to journey together. Community is where we are brave, loved and strengthened in our faith and relationships. Hugs friend!
Beth Williams says
I completely understand giving up on church. I was a “nominal” Christian for years. Oh I attended church, but that was it. No community, not much! Then God led me via my hubby to this wonderful little church on a hill! It is my community and I wouldn’t trade the friends for anything! We all need community of one kind or another. God knows us best and He will direct our paths to the right place!
Esther Dawn Littlefield says
Yes, community is where change can happen in our lives. When we avoid community as Christians, we are missing out on so much. Glad you found a place where you can love and be loved!
This has certainly been my journey. I have a church, but I’ve been sidelined by sickness, trauma, and shame. Nothing that I did, but what has been done to me.
Pray that I will use His Grace to get up once again.