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
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.