“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23
[Part seven of nine in a fruits of the spirit series. See the others here >> Love Joy Peace Patience Kindness Goodness]
On Community, Their Faithfulness & Being Surrounded
Have you ever tried to do life on your own?
I was once that girl. Independent, hardworking and driven. Not willing to invest in relationships or admit I needed help. But, here’s the thing. You can only get so far by yourself. It gets lonely out there!
God came through! I moved from a place of isolation, trying to figure out life on my own, to being completely surrounded. He gave me the circle of friends that everyone dreams of and reads about in books.
They are my people! Like the Meredith to my Christina. Grey’s fans know what I’m talking about.
We are an eccentric bunch, to say the least. We met in completely absurd ways. Quite literally, I chased one of my friends down in the church parking lot to invite her to lifegroup. With another, I tripped and did a backwards roll while playing softball. She saw my theatrics and must’ve liked ’em. Takes one to know one. Haha…
We are single, we are engaged, and we are married.
We are living at home, in apartments, and buying houses.
We are having kids. (What?! who signed off on this?)
We are getting our masters’ degrees, working on our careers and living life.
We are pastor’s kids, lifelong Christians, and newbies.
What makes this type of community beautiful is its’ diversity. We all have different stories, perspectives, and challenges we’re facing. We are struggling with sin, recovering from addictions, and pretending to be grown up sometimes. I have learned an incredible amount from these folks, gathered around my half-done DIY dinner table with mismatched chairs. We had steaks, pasta, and sweet and sour chicken. We sit around the table, talking for hours about our faith and life.
This group of people has taught me that I am not isolated. Not even if I try to be. These friends are ever present. No matter what we’re going through, what stupid decision we’ve made, or what we’re celebrating. They’ve revealed my weaknesses. Taught me ways in which I am selfish. They’ve taught me how they are in it for the long haul. They have taught me how much I need them, and how much I need Christ. It’s all about Him. And it’s about my heart being fully surrendered to Him.
Community Reveals my Weaknesses
“We are naturally self-oriented, so we must constantly and intentionally choose others.”
Being this closely involved in a few other peoples’ lives revealed an awareness of how selfish I was. I wanted my home to be Pinterest-worthy, clean and decorated. To be honest, it’s a lie I fight every time people are coming over. But, each experience brings me closer to the realization that these folks are gonna love me no matter what–the same way I still love my friend, who, while teaching this exact thing at lifegroup, had to get up mid sentence to clean up cat puke. The timing was too perfect!
We are created to be loved! That desire for intimacy with others is present in all of us. We were created to be in community, and we will meet that need in one way or another. We hang on to relationships that we should let go of, and vice versa. Take a step back to see what the healthy relationships (and unhealthy ones) are teaching you about God’s design for his people.
Community is in it for the Long Haul
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – Mark 12:30-31
The command is simple. Why do we muck it up so much? Love others. No checkboxes, no requirements. Just love them. Be present for them. Listen to them. Don’t be afraid of the mess.
My community has shared many fun memories together, but also those embarrassing stories. (I have plenty, believe me. Just when I think I’ve forgotten one, they remember it) We’ve seen the good, bad and ugly. We’ve celebrated days of new marriages and babies, but we’ve also walked through the proverbial crap. And for that I am so thankful. Literally. Tears in my eyes as I think about how thankful I am for these silly friends and their long-term, real, vulnerable love.
Community is all about Jesus
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13
When loving others gets challenging, its so much easier to walk away than to dig your heels in and fight for them. I’ve walked away too many times to count, but now see each of these “extra grace required” people as Jesus did. He LOVES THEM dearly. So much! Infinite, undeserved grace. As we strive to live more like Christ, we can’t make an exception for those who don’t deserve our love, or don’t give anything in return.
Where do we go from here? Sure, the authentic, rich, enduring, and non-judgemental community sounds great. But we can’t just start outward. Start by seeking Christ first. Fill your heart with his promises, and then let that overflow into the relationships you have and will enter into.
And, a little note to my “family” because I’m feeling particularly sappy writing tonight:
I’ve said this to you before, but I am eternally grateful for each of you hooligans. I love the way we can encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and get on three hour rabbit trail conversations. I love that my Craigslist dining room table has held many dinners with those If Table Questions that we never actually answered because we got too off topic. I’m thankful for the many celebrations of engagements, new babies, moving and roadtrips to San Francisco when you made me go dancing. I don’t know what I did to deserve you seven, but I can’t thank God enough for your presence in my life. You each mean the world to me, and I have loved watching our friendships grow over the years. I get so excited about the future–both the good and the tough, because I know we will be there for each other through it all.