Thursday Tips: The Fear of Dependence

This week we are combatting some fears with truth, gusto, and some honesty.

Long story short: sometimes I think it makes me seem really brave and super spiritual if I can do life without the help or support of anyone else. And I can… for a while. But eventually I realize that I’m lonely, fearful, and not growing in the ways I should be. It’s way easier for me to feel super spiritual by myself. Add someone else to the equation and my selfishness quickly asserts itself. Uggh.

We weren’t created to fly solo. We were made for community.

So today I wanted to share a favorite Retro Thursday Tip via video and remind us all how we can cultivate a growing community by setting up a network. Want to hear more? Press play.

Community is hard, but I think it’s worth it.

“Considering what Adam went through to appreciate Eve to the utmost, I wondered how beautiful it is that you and I were created to need each other. The romantic need is just the beginning, because we need our families and we need our friends. In this way, we are made in God’s image. Certainly God does not need people in the way you and I do, but He feels a joy at being loved, and He feels a joy at delivering love. It is a stinking thought to realize that, in paradise, a human is incomplete without a host of other people. We are relational indeed. And the Bible, with all its understanding of the relational needs of humans, was becoming more meaningful to me as I turned the pages. God made me, He knows me, He understands me, and He wants community.”

-Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What

_ _ _

Community: do you want to run after it or away from it? Why?

Learning and Following,
Ginger

Look Outward

Day 4 of heartache

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” (The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis)

JOURNAL ENTRY
“I spent about three weeks hiding tears all day long.  I was a mess.  So, I started in the Psalms.  I clung to the verses.  They are plastered on post-it notes all over my desk.  And as I made it to Psalm 33 I found out that he was keeping me alive during the famine.  I turned my eyes to see the students and friends around me and I began praying – boldly.  I have seen God radically alter the lives of my kids.  This Sunday I marveled as a girl I have been lifting up to the Lord since late September asked me to stand with her as she decided to be baptized.  I entered the water and joined the Pastor with tears in my eyes.  I was witnessing these students coming from hollow existence into real living one at a time.”

GET TO GIVING
If we want to see our grief melt into joy, the first step is usually to change our point of view from inward to outward focus. The truth of the matter is that joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

“When we’re feeling our lowest, helping others actually makes us feel better about our world because it reminds us that the world isn’t all about us. Volunteer with strangers or attend to those family members or long-lost friends you’ve neglected during your adventures in romance gone wrong.” (The Art of Rejection, Hayley & Michael DiMarco)

STAY CONNECTED
The temptation can often be to desire that all time spent with friends post breakup be focused on our feelings and the challenges we are experiencing. We definitely need and want accountability in those times to keep us from taking steps backward. However, if all of your conversations are about your breakup, you aren’t doing yourself or your friendships any favors. Remember that your friends have struggles and challenges of their own. Be sure that the conversation and relationship goes both ways. Stay connected and attentive to the lasting relationships that God has placed in your life!

“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.  For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.  You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.  You let men ride on our heads; we went through fire and water but you brought us to a place of abundance.”  Psalm 66:8-12

Psalm 66 reminds us that God has preserved our lives and that He has been the one to keep us from drowning in our hurt. Our hurts linger because our expectations did not meet up with reality. But “the only way you will be destroyed is if you let yourself be destroyed.” (The Art of Rejection)

Fix your eyes upward and outward. He will see you through.

Following and Listening,
Ginger

Life Together

Just over two years ago I discovered something unexpected about myself. I determined that I had a huge fear of being alone. This wasn’t the surprising “something unexpected about myself” discovery.  I’ve always known that despite my adventurous spirit and independent nature I long to be connected to others.  What surprised me was the realization that at some point I had come to believe that needing company or community showed spiritual weakness. I had skewed things to the extent that I thought God was holding out on giving me the love I desired in my life because I couldn’t be satisfied just in Him. Obviously He desires that I would find fulfillment and ultimate satisfaction in Him alone – but He also didn’t place us here to fight the fight as a one-man team. I had twisted His best for me to be a self-made punishment.  “Because you can’t get this right, you will always be alone and you should learn to suck it up.”

When God created the world He declared it (the world) to be good, but He declared that Adam was very good.  That could have been it. God and Adam until the end of time. But God looked at Adam and decided it was NOT good for man to be alone. God gave Adam the companionship of Eve.

“Considering what Adam went through to appreciate Eve to the utmost, I wondered how beautiful it is that you and I were created to need each other. The romantic need is just the beginning, because we need our families and we need our friends. In this way, we are made in God’s image. Certainly God does not need people in the way you and I do, but He feels a joy at being loved, and He feels a joy at delivering love. It is a stinking thought to realize that, in paradise, a human is incomplete without a host of other people. We are relational indeed. And the Bible, with all its understanding of the relational needs of humans, was becoming more meaningful to me as I turned the pages. God made me, He knows me, He understands me, and He wants community.” -Donald Miller, Searching For God Knows What

I stole the title of this blog post from a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I actually read “Life Together” as a sort of pre-marital exercise with my husband.  We asked a good friend what books they would recommend for us and he responded with, “Life Together.”  The book is about living intentionally to develop community within your fellowship… and it’s jam-packed with quality information.

Bonhoeffer begins this small book by briefly describing what Christian Community should look like.  As my friend Becca said, “He describes what Christian community should look like and blows up all our expectations and social club ideas that we have made it into.”  Bonhoeffer makes a similar point to the quote by Nouwen that we talked about yesterday [“In true community we are windows constantly offering each other new views on the mystery of God’s presence in our lives.”] – that the purpose of Christian community is to speak the Word of God to one another.  He makes the point that community isn’t to just find other people in your exact stage of life or perspectives on global events.  (I’m generalizing.)  The goal isn’t just to be comfortable and pat each other on the back – but to actually do life together.  He closes out the book with a chapter on confession, quite possibly a big key to what’s missing in a lot of our community relationships.  “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  James 5:16, NLT

“Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Let’s see if I can summarize this wandering post.  Purposeful community is important.  Here are a few items that are changing my thinking and behavior when it comes to community.

-We weren’t meant to be alone.  (Genesis 1:26, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

-Pray for like-hearted relationships even if the people aren’t like you.  Ask that God would grant meaningful relationships with people of every age and personality type.

-Be purposeful in meeting!  Determine that your community will love God, love others, and continue to make disciples.  Live and exist on mission!  (Hebrews 10:25)

-Confess to each other.  (James 5:16)

-Pray for one another.

Life together might be messy, but it’s a gift and one which we should seek to be thankful for every day.  Fight for it like you mean it.

Following and fighting for it,
Ginger

Community

Dear Ginger-

Thursday you quoted “In true community we are windows constantly offering each other new views on the mystery of God’s presence in our lives.” (Henri Nouwen)

This puts into words exactly what I feel I’ve been longing for. I am in multiple bible study like groups right now, but I feel like the depth of these relationships is out of my hands. Can you write more on what actually happens in groups in which you’re involved? I feel like it is too big a risk to be vulnerable in the groups I am in because no one else is being vulnerable. – E

Dear E-

I’ve been avoiding answering this question.  I was going to do it on Friday and then Saturday and… you get the idea.  I feel a little inadequate to answer your question because I feel like I’m in a similar place.  I’ve experienced real and deep community in past seasons of my life.  Because of that, I know that true community – like the kind described by Nouwen- can and does exist.  I think that knowledge makes this season all the more challenging.

I’ve mentioned before that I am doing what I can to set myself up for success and depth in this area.  I’m in a Bible study, a small group, and I’m also trying to connect with neighbors, old friends, and groups that I volunteer with.  But I’m not “there” yet.  I’m getting closer every day and am so thankful for the women who seem to go above and beyond to force me out of my shell.  But I realize the effort goes both ways.  I can’t just rely on friendly extroverts and wise mentors to create the community I desire.

Last week my Bible study group and small group discussed how we get to a point of prayerful honesty and trust with a group of people.  Time together, shared experiences, and willingness to be vulnerable with our joys and junk were deemed the top instigators of friendship, trust, and community.  So if we know those things have the greatest potential to bring us together with others… I need to ask us both some hard questions.  I’m going to answer them with you.

What keeps us from experiencing community?

1.  A prideful heart.  This one is awful.  I don’t even want to talk about it.  When I have judgement in my heart, I stop listening and begin doing all the talking.  I have all the answers.  Or I shut down and begin making my grocery list – determing that I’ve heard this before, thank you very much.

2.  An unwillingness to share.  Sometimes I just don’t want to describe the blackness in my own heart.  Five other people have already spoken and I find myself thinking, “Ginger, no one needs to hear what you have to say.”  And yet, I know that in order to feel connected to my groups I am going to have to be vulnerable with my heart.  I can’t live in the land of “I’m fine.”  The best times of community that I’ve experienced this past year have come about when someone is willing to say, “I’m not fine and I need you guys to pray for me.”

3.  An impatient spirit.  I want things to run on my timeline.  They should begin and end as I see fit.  This leaves little room for God to move in HIS timing.  This also leaves little room for connecting, listening, and growing closer as a community.  This can also refer to how quickly I want community to be created.  When things don’t happen the way I want, I begin to think that maybe this group isn’t for me.  False.  Maybe I’m the very reason that things don’t feel complete!

These three items tend to be huge roadblocks for me when it comes to deepening relationships.  Relationships are messy and require a lot of effort and energy.  I’m not going to get super close to ten people all at once, but I can take steps to know more about the people in my group than just who is flying out of town this weekend.  Ask someone to lunch.  Take the first steps to share with your group.  Text or call someone in your group and follow-up with the prayer requests mentioned at your study.  Ask intentional questions.  Pray that God would use you to turn your group into a community for a heavenly purpose!

“We need to be communities of love.  And we need to be SEEN to be communities of love.  People need to encounter the church as a network of relationships rather than a meeting you attend or a place you enter.  Mission must involve not only contact between unbelievers and individual Christians, but between unbelievers and the Christian community.  We want to build relationships with unbelievers.  But we also need to introduce people to the network of relationships that make up that believing community so they can see Christian community in action.” – Total Church by Chester and Timmis

Let’s chat more about this tomorrow.

Following,
Ginger

Home

I’m typing from my home today, but when you read this I will actually be at my parent’s home in Texas.  My other home.

Question: When does your home stop being your home?

In the last year I’ve changed my name and my welcome mat. I proudly display my initialed stationary, coasters, and towels. None of these changes have been involuntary. I registered for everything with the letter C on it as my husband chuckled and rolled his eyes.

Question: When do you stop feeling like you are moving all the time?

I’ve moved 15 times since 2000. Most of those were moves within the same city or area code, but all the same: that’s a lot of transition.

I’ve been trying to dig roots here, honestly. I’ve been living in my new city for almost six months now and I feel like I should have a really settled feeling… but I don’t. I am so happy to be D’s wife. I am excited for my business and dreaming endeavors, and I am so pleased to live in our home. We have a lovely church, diverse and wonderful neighbors, and family within 45 minutes of driving.

So what gives?

I think I knew the answer even before it came, but all the same I still had to be smacked across the face with a frying pan this week.

My friendships are changing again. Those that I depended upon for years are now moving steadily forward in their own communities and families. I feel like all I can do is watch from the side and call out as they lap me one more time. None of this is bad or even sad… it’s just part of change.

I’ve been attending three different groups this year. I signed up for Bible study, small group fellowship, and Bunco fun. I just realized that out of the forty others represented in those groups, I have FOUR of those phone numbers in my contact list. Granted, I don’t need all the numbers from my co-ed small group, but the statistics are still surprising as I sit here adding.

The numbers are evidence of my frying pan moment. I am not letting anyone IN. I attend, I cook food, I share my prayer requests, and then I rush out the door. I have yet to really share me.

Here’s what I read on Tuesday sitting on a bench outside the Library.

The discipline of community makes us persons; that is, people who are sounding through to each other a truth, a beauty, and a love which is greater, fuller, and richer than we ourselves can grasp. In true community we are windows constantly offering each other new views on the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. Thus the discipline of community is a true discipline of prayer. It makes us alert to the presence of the Spirit who cries out “Abba,” Father, among us and thus prays from the center of our common life. Community thus is obedience practiced together. – Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New

You know what I wanted? I wanted to be able to blame this on cliques or inside jokes or even being the new person. But I can’t. This is my doing. This is my stubbornness, disobedience, and judgement. I have kept the shades drawn and kept community out, and for that I feel deep regret. I am saddened and sorry.

But it’s time to move on. I am done with passive community. I am ready for this community to become my home… away from my Heavenly Home.

“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:22-25, The Message

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Philippians 3:20, NIV

Following and learning,
Ginger

***This post was written in April of this year for another blog.  This new home is home and my roots are deepening every day.  God is good!