When you move to a new state, your life becomes about creating new community. I didn't have to start completely from scratch but much of my world is about developing new relationships. At work. At church. In my community group. Wherever I go, I am in search of friends not because I'm needy but because relationships are what this life is about. Relationships offer us the chance to grow and be challenged. They give us a context for support, encouragement, and comfort. Within a community of believers, we can mentor others and be mentored. For those who do not know Christ, we can be living and breathing examples of what discipleship looks like. And in all situations, we can glorify God's name. Without relationships, we are not just lonely. We are missing out on the life God created us for.
"Brought together from different backgrounds, and having journeyed through different struggles, we find ourselves joined together as one in the life of Christ. Disciple making involves identifying with a community of believers who show love to one another and share life with one another as we live together for the glory of God." -p. 97This is not just a picture of life to me, but a picture of heaven. Too often, our differences divide us instead of uniting us. I am drawn to communities where different backgrounds, cultures, marital status, and genders are celebrated. I believe we have so much that we can learn from one another. I believe it is important to have a community in which the members are authentic and honest with one another.
Perhaps that's why I felt one of Platt's most important points in this chapter is that discipleship/community requires vulnerability. This has been a struggle for me in the past. I realized a few years ago that I was so used to being the Listener, that I was not always good at being the Sharer. I can talk about past struggles but when it comes to current areas of sanctification, I found myself holding back until it's resolved or just not talking about it at all. It robs me and the people in my community of a chance to become more intimate with one another. If I can't openly share about my life, then you will not know who I really am. Discretion is wise- you don't need to share everything with everyone- but developing a friendship involves both people sharing issues of substance. My "inner circle" of friends knows enough about me to make a case for blackmail but it works because I can say the same about them.
But those are people who have known me for some time. My challenge now is being vulnerable with new friends. At community group last week, our second time meeting, I took a deep breath and shared the darker pieces of my testimony, not knowing what the response might be. It is not always easy to talk about the person I used to be but it informs the person I am today. Accept me, accept my past baggage. And they did, with open arms. This simple act of freefalling has allowed me to feel safe in this group of believers. It reassures me that this is a place where discipleship will occur, where we will learn from one another, and care for one another. Had I not taken a leap of faith and shared, I would have missed out on my community group's response.
This also makes me think about how I want to help others who have struggled with depression and low self-esteem. I want God to use the difficulties I've experienced. I want to be open to mentoring a teenage girl or whomever might benefit from hearing my story. I want to intentionally disciple someone. Maybe the beauty of creating my community here is that I have the time to seek out these opportunities.
Community is not something that can be rushed.
There's a progression here.
While I'm impatient to know where I'll volunteer and which new relationships will stand the test of time, but for now it's a matter of coffee dates, drinks at happy hour, Bible study conversations, and random opportunities. Revealing pieces of me to foster depth through it all. It's an interesting dance- getting to know new friends, testing the waters of trust- but I know that this is my new home and the community will come in time.
This post is part of the Radical Read-Along hosted by the fantastic Marla Taviano.
For those of you interested in my volunteer quest, I've come across 7 different opportunities, from the homeless to hospice patients, and am starting to research the organizations and figure out which one I can commit to and be consistent. I'm pretty excited about these options and hope I'll have it figured out soon!