“Did you know about this?” My shaking hands pulled the stack of papers from my boss’s hand and scanned the pages quickly, not believing what was in front of my own eyes. Of course the numbers hadn’t been adding up, but… How could I have been so completely duped?
“Nothing happened! I don’t care about her. I love you.” I knew we were over before he finished his plea, but… Why didn’t I see it sooner?
“You don’t get it.” The words were spewed quietly but with venom that hit its target and flooded my veins with its poison. I had tried so hard to show I cared, but… Why do I even bother?
Do any of these sound familiar? We have all felt let down by others at some point in our lives, and we know the emotions conjured by moments like this. We can’t help but be challenged by such experiences to morph in some way, to grow a thicker skin, carry a bigger stick, or build a stronger wall, anything to keep it from happening again.
For an introvert like me, with a dash of social anxiety thrown in just for fun, it wasn’t hard to slide down the slippery slope of isolation after a few incidents of betrayal. I felt like a compass that had been dropped off a tall building, permanently skewed by 5 degrees. Over the course of years I brushed shoulders with others enough to look normal from the outside, all the while missing the mark of true relationships, building my walls little by little. Avoided eye contact: Brick. Unanswered email: Brick. Turned-down invitations: Brick, brick, brick.
I’ve had it with trusting people, I remember saying to myself. This relationship business? Yeah, I’m out.
For me, community had always been a word with nasty undertones. It conjured up whispering women sitting in the back pew of church, looking down on others. Gated, judging, pompous. How could God be in something that in my experience had felt so un-God-like?
And then, two years ago, God began to redefine my understanding of community. Reeling from a sudden cancer diagnosis and months of recovery from surgery, my husband and I left behind the large church we had been attending for 8 years in basically an anonymous fashion (just the way I wanted it). Drawn by a deep desire for change and an undeniable shove by the Holy Spirit, we joined an eclectic small group of believers with a passion for community on the small and large scale. In this place, I began to find my people. It was like quenching a thirst I didn’t even know I had. Changing my no’s into yeses, I slowly began to dip my toes back into the waters of community.
It’s January, and the trend of resolution making is in full swing. Many people will make the resolution to give the calendar some breathing room and say no to too many commitments. I know a lot of women relate to that, the majority even, but I don’t. And I know I can’t be the only one who has spent what feels like a lifetime leaning out, arms crossed, eyes averted, waiting. If you, like me, have found yourself wondering if God has a place for you to belong, check this out:
“God is building a home. He’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what he is building… Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.” (Ephesians 2: 19-22, MSG; emphasis added)
It seems that God is into walls after all, just not the kind I built. He’s more into the kind of walls made up of people in community. So much, in fact, that he calls this Jesus-based community a holy temple, a place where he wants to get comfortable and stay. That sounds like a place I want to be. We are not meant to live out our Christianity alone. What I have discovered is that when we embrace life-giving community, we are much more able to lean into this big, hurting, fear-filled yet wonderful world with a posture of love and service. That purpose-shaped emptiness in our lives starts to fill in.
Maybe your compass needs to be readjusted too. Will you join me this year by taking a sledgehammer to those walls, searching out your people, and saying yes to community? Let’s lean in together, friends. I know it won’t always be easy, but I have a feeling it’s going to be worth it.