Why You Need Community

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Women from my last community group whom I just adore. Can’t you tell?

I know you are busy. As in “what the heck happened yesterday and what am I supposed to be doing today” busy. We all are. It’s the American way, these days. Even when we’re trying to simplify our lives it takes an act of Congress to move something off the calendar to create a space to breathe it seems. So I really do understand why, when you show up to church and your pastor tells you to sign up for a “small/care/community/home/core” group, you say,

Nice try Preacher Man. I’ll attempt that next year or once the kids are older or job gets easier.

I get it mama’s. I really do. It’s a challenge to squeeze one more thing into your life and believe me, I live in that world of juggling too. So before you tune me out, let me share a different angle on this that has really helped me decide to invest my time in a group of relative strangers in the hopes of God doing something miraculous.

At the backyard celebration for my friend who adopted three children one year ago- she will tell you she could not have made it without community

You need community to heal. There is a saying in counseling, that we get wounded in relationship, so we must heal in relationship. It means, you cannot sort through all the hurts and issues in your life in a vacuum. It means you need people to bump into your stuff to draw it out of you. It is about healing the past junk through new interactions. In my own life, some of my most profound moments have come through my deepest community. I remember when I was suddenly a single mother facing a divorce. Devastated. Rejected. Afraid. I had two little boys and wasn’t sure I knew how to be mama and daddy to both. My women friends rallied around me with fierce loyalty, but my wound had come through abandonment from my closest male relationship. Guess where some of my most important moments of healing came?

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most of the women in my church community 16 years ago

One was sitting in my house on my couch, exhausted. My dear friends Darcy and Tim had come by to just be with me. Darcy was holding my hand and I was sharing my fears and pain, and without a word Tim just started rubbing my feet. I know that may sound strange but for me it was like I was being protected by an older brother. Someone who saw me and knew I had been wounded and wanted to serve me in that simple way.  Another moment came on Mother’s Day. I hadn’t really thought about how I would help my boys to honor me on that day, but as that morning approached, one of my friend’s husbands had already planned for it. We were at their house having dinner, and he called my boys into his bedroom. They came out carrying roses for me, “from them” and were so proud. I didn’t need the roses for me. I just didn’t want them to feel sad at church on Sunday when everyone else was talking about what they had done for their mama’s and my guys hadn’t done anything. Now they could say, “We got our mama roses” and know they had been good boys. I cannot tell you how God used both those moments to assure me that I was going to be okay. That He would provide for my physical, emotional and relational needs.

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My friends Tim and Darcy, with their oldest at the time, Alexandra

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the women who loved me through my healing

You need community to grow. It’s not just old wounds that come to the surface as we rub shoulders with other people. It’s also our ugly side. You know the side of you that your spouse sees, but is carefully hidden from coworkers and neighbors and church folk? Yeah, that part God wants to uproot and replant with the fruit that comes from His Holy Spirit. But it takes some exposing, and nothing exposes it faster than people needing you. (On a Saturday. To move from a second story apartment, to a two story house, in July.) Or people who interrupt, or show up late or forget your birthday, or whine about things you consider trivial. Yes, those people expose things in you and I that need uprooting. Pride, selfishness, apathy, laziness, fear. And sometimes, if we are really willing to open up our lives to the point that we share thoughts and feelings and details of what goes on, well sometimes people will speak into them. And it is challenging. It makes us step back and take another look at what might really be going on in our hearts. It helps us remember we are not alone when we begin to believe that lie. Or to remember we are loved to the core when we start feeling too much or not enough. (the lies women bounce back and forth with on the daily.)

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the women who have loved me over the past five years or so (minus my bestie in Florida)- they speak truth to me, they pray for me, they ask for my help and they are all different from me in ways that challenge my walk with Jesus

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my Branches girls- they know me well enough to call me on my junk, but they love me enough to do it kindly

You need community to survive. I have some friends who as I type are in ICU at a hospital in Nashville. The husband had brain surgery to remove a tumor and is in a coma. The wife is there night and day, in total shock- clinging to the hope that God might perform a miracle and heal her husband. And He might, I don’t know and it’s not my job to decide. But what has struck me mightily as I have watched through facebook posts and heard through texts and from my husband who has been there to see them, is the overwhelming flood of real live community that is surrounding them. Night and day, people are there. My brother in law drove through the night to be here with them. People are gathering in parks to pray. I have no idea what the future holds in this life for that family, but I know that whatever it lies ahead, their community will be there to walk it out with them. They have been investing into the lives of others sacrificially and generously for years. And now we will all be there to hold them up. Life is hard on this side of heaven. It’s broken and everything breaks with it. But community holds you up when everything else falls down.

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That little head peaking out on the far left is me. On a bus on a mission trip in Brazil. That smiling face on the right is my friend in the hospital today. Will you stop and say a prayer for he and his wife and their two little girls?

 

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