A few years ago, in the midst of one of the hardest times in my life, I had an encounter that drove me into full-blown retreat and almost took me out of the game – out of community. We are never alone in our hard times, and one of my friends came into her own crisis. In retrospect, I can see her pain so clearly, but in the moment, all I could see was the damage and devastation as she imploded and took her world down around her – blaming everyone; pitting friends against each other; and pushing hard for the life she thought she wanted. Things shifted in a moment and before I knew it I felt like I was on the outside looking in at friends I no longer seemed to have. New friendships that had begun seemed to disintegrate beneath my fingers like brittle leaves in a hard wind. I felt abandoned, isolated, and alone.
Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it's just too bad, because there is no one to help him. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself. Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.
I hibernated. Months of staying at home. Playing the avoidance game. Going nowhere near email or Facebook. Long conversations with my sister and one trusted friend trying to parse out what had happened. And writing. Lots of writing it out. I poured my anger, hurt, and frustration into letters – most of them never sent. I prayed it out and wrestled with God – asking the why and what over and over. I started listening to that still small voice and found Him prompting me towards the idea of blogging. The more I wrote, the more I prayed, the more I read, the more I found the Lord leading me back to the place where things had been broken. Community.
And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up, stimulate, and incite to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together as believers, as is the habit of some people, but admonishing, warning, urging, and encouraging one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.
It began again with a birthday party. Several of us coming back together and saying “we’re doing this and we hope you’ll join us.” And there we were, around a table with really good Chinese food and a new friend; starting to share in all the things we’d been missing out on. I sent a couple of letters and emails that had been hanging around unsent; worked together to untangle friendships that had become convoluted beyond belief – and there was such joy and relief in the rekindling of those friendships. Braver still, I started being intentional about my writing and my blogging: striking out to find communities online that would encourage me to follow my heart and the Lord’s leading. I found the beautiful Ann Voskamp and her counting 1000 Gifts; the incomparable (in)courage community, and Allume – real light living. Through these venues, I made new friends, found new places of God light and encouragement, discovered brave new places to write and be heard, dared to enter a virtual room of strangers and engage in my first ever Twitter party (where I was welcomed with such wide arm opening hugs and hilarity that it almost knocked me off my chair), and committed myself to being honest and vulnerable about my struggles and allowing those weakness to allow me be to become a broken vessel through which God’s glory can shine.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Community. I have come back to community. Where I can stand completely imperfect – in fact – a thoroughly unpredictable mess at times and yet be loved, accepted, healed, and welcomed by those around me who are part of my community. These women I love and admire, they often confess to feeling like unpredictable messes – that’s the beauty of it. We are each given what we need to do the job that God has placed us here on this earth to do and we do it. All the while, looking around in wonder at those who we think have it all together and are smooth-sailing along. And they’re doing their job – looking right back at us with the same wonder.
Together, we can turn our wondering eyes heavenward, linking hands and hearts and giving thanks for this gift of community that loves and gives and spills over into our lives to bless us, and heal us, and draw us closer to each other, and closer to God, so that we can turn around again and draw more hearts in to experience the joy that we have been given.
Want to make some connections of your own? You can find them at the (in)RL video (and in real life) conference on April 26 & 27 - you can register here. Discover the beauty of life in community and the sweet fellowship that comes with it. And watch the video below, for a sneak peek at what the (in)courage community is all about ...