Community is for the birds. We need community.
Because, let’s be honest, it’s super lonely without others.
We need people on the other end of the phone, or sitting on our couch, or bumping into us at church or work or school drop-off. We need to invite them our hearts and minds. In some seasons, it seems community is everywhere we turn. Easy, abundant and life-giving. It’s when community requires work, asking, stating a desire to belong, that the challenge exists. And I don’t necessarily mean physical community. Most of us have work or school or kids or full schedules and as much as we’d love to sit and share a latte with our favorite people, it’s not always a reality. No, I’m talking about they-have-my-back, and even-if-I-don’t-see-them-in-person-as-often-as -we’d-like, I-can-reach-out-and-know-they-are-there people. Period. That kind of community, friends.
It was slow faucet drips that pooled into my drowning disconnections, and after months of processing, I passionately cheer, yes, community is where it’s at. Community is the recipe for belonging.
At any given time I’m convinced one or two parts of our relational facets are disconnected.
When I became a new mom, I missed work responsibilities, meeting with clients, and planning events. I fought the parenting facet and finally embraced it, knowing mom is one of my many roles. To deny being a mother, means to deny selflessness, and play, and what I am to learn in the mundane details of having a child. Being a new mom meant diving into a parenting community and inviting other moms to bring their babies over so we could stare at our drooling newborns and discuss nursing, the lack of sleep, and our unanimous caffeine addiction. During this time my mom facet shone, while my career facet was temporarily disconnected. The choice was my perspective in embracing, or fighting it.
Fast forward to this last fall / winter and I began puzzle-piecing together that most of my facets had become cloudy and cut off. At work I longed to be part of a team. At church I sat by myself (while Bryan’s leads the middle school youth group) . I seldom saw friends. It was loneliness on steroids, and as much as I tried to swallow this new season and mask it with “everyone is busy and this is just how life gets,” it didn’t help. I was drowning in disconnected depression. Belonging; that’s what was missing. And never mind that some may not need it. This gal here, I long to be. To belong in community.
So I allowed myself time to process and get real with Jesus in the disconnected feelings. And he so gently made it clear that it boils down to belonging. When we belong to something greater than ourselves, when we have community and enter in and let people reflect Him in ways that otherwise stay dark and lonely, that’s when disconnected facets are quieted.
I think of my brain like an empty room. When I feel disconnected, critical dark thoughts echo all over the place like a bouncy ball. Boing, boing boing. But put a piece of furniture in that room and it absorbs the sound. When I choose to reach close to community even when I don’t feel like it, when I invite them into the room, the bouncy echo no longer has power because people absorb it. Their very existence takes up otherwise empty space. Community becomes the furniture who decorate our life. They sturdy and accent, offering home and safety. The less we isolate ourselves, the richer our rooms are designed with community. While some are confident couches or quirky leg lamps, others are colorful coasters, a shag rug, a classy set of champagne flutes, or a one-of-a-kind wingback. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to fill our rooms with a community that echo stories and faith and bright bold colors instead of dark silence?
Doothy Day says, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
As I talked with Bryan about the many disconnected facets, we began dreaming about how to invite community into those spaces. To absorb the echoes. To speak truth. To be sounding boards and faith reflectors. When our relational quota is unmet, it’s too easy to become completely self-absorbed and forget to ask questions, or serve, or listen, or be sharpened.
Jesus keeps us from empty rooms and loud echoes and reminds us that the bravest ask can be asking. He doesn’t get mad when I’m honest about needing people in addition to Him. He smiles because He made me this way. He created me to desire others.
In the new year I did this. With dear friends, I shared about my disconnected realizations and how I refused to stay there. Hope comes in community. And so I asked to belong. I asked for unconditional love. I asked for them to speak into “empty room thoughts.” Will you absorb dark echoes, knowing God’s spirit speaks powerful and freeing through people, through you?
I asked if I could sit with them at church. I asked if they’d check in if they hadn’t heard from me in weeks. At work, I inquired about building bridges toward team, and even now, God is stirring me toward opening up our home for those who need community. In return, I asked how I can be community to them.
At our heart’s core, is a desire for belonging. To be loved unconditionally. To be sought after and cared for. To be missed when absent and supported when present. How beautiful that we can be community in tiny and grand ways. In his book, Yes or No Jeff Shinabarger talks about community: “If you see people you care about retreating, engage them. They need you. They need your care, your listening ear, and your perspective to help them through whatever has them stuck. We were made for each other. Don’t abandon that gift when you or soemone else most needs it.”
If you feel disconnected, try taking inventory of how many people are invited into your heart and mind. Are they encouraging and abosrbing empty thougths? Are they fighting for you on behalf of our grace-giving God? We are not meant to do this faith journey alone. Start with one. Pray about who you long to be yourself with, about who Jesus is using to manifest belonging. Who can you invite into your room?
This is community. And we all need it.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. – Romans 15:5