I was the student in the back of the lecture hall who never raised her hand, who waited for someone else to ask the question, who thought others knew what they were doing when she was confused or lost. I didn’t dress to stand out. I didn’t take up a lot of space with my body or voice. I didn’t want to bring unnecessary attention to myself or speak only to then prove myself to be incompetent. I saw myself as someone who should blend into the background, so I cruised under the radar of being seen and known and cloaked myself with the pretense of not caring whether or not I made new friends.
But it was just that — it was pretend because I did care. I wanted to be seen, to be known, to belong. I wanted to feel confident enough in myself, to not be awkward and be relaxed in a crowd. I wanted to be able to reach beyond my regular group of friends, but it felt unsafe to break out of my comfort zone. Why put myself out there when I have friends who already love me and like me?
So, I closed my arms tightly around myself and the community I already had and stayed where I felt safe without thinking to create a safe place for myself and others.
I remember those days now that my kids are in school. I tell them to be kind to their classmates, to look for the ones who may look lonely or alone, and to invite others to play with them even when they have a best friend they always want to play with. I teach them these things because we can be prone to draw tight circles around ourselves with only the people we like and choose what’s comfortable or best only for ourselves without thinking of the other.
I want them to be unlike me in many ways. I want them to learn earlier on that being available and intentional in community is a lifelong lesson they can carry with them but also one that can be practiced everyday while they’re at school.
But what I wasn’t expecting was for the lesson I was teaching them to bounce back at me.
My kindergartener’s teacher asked me to be the room mom for her class, and for days I hemmed and hawed because I didn’t know if I wanted that kind of responsibility or that kind of visibility with the other parents. I would’ve been happy to simply blend in with the other parents instead of leading the charge.
But the teacher was kind in her persistence and spelled out her expectations clearly. I would be sharing the load with another mom, which made everything seem light and doable.
As I sat down to write the first email introducing myself to all the parents, it hit me how I’m not simply doing a favor for the teacher. I won’t simply be in charge of crafts and parties and making copies. I’ll have the opportunity to reach out and create a space for the parents to land softly. I’ll have the chance to extend my arms and my boundary lines to include each parent but especially those who are new. I’ll carry the important weight of seeing others, hearing them when needed, and linking arms with them to co-create an environment of welcome and warmth for our kids.
Choosing to create community doesn’t only apply to the church. It should expand into every other area of our lives as well. Instead of sticking to the small circles we’re a part of or instead of standing on the outside looking in, hoping for someone to see us, we can be the ones to see first, to extend ourselves and draw new lines around who we’re calling our community.
Lord, help us to have the eyes to see, to have the heart to reach out, and to break out of our comfort zones so we can be community for those who are lonely and alone, for those who need a friend or a outstretched hand. We want to be like You and love like You do. May your expansive, ever-reaching love wreck us every time we try to close our circles tighter instead of wider. In Your gracious name we pray, amen.
God, may your expansive, ever-reaching love wreck us every time we try to close our circles tighter instead of wider. -@gracepcho: Click To Tweet