31 Days:: Crooked Without Community

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Day 15: Crooked Without Community

 

Just days before I showed up to Bible Study that Tuesday morning, I wrote these words in my journal: “I am tired of living in obscurity, isolation, selfishness, and fear.”

You see, I was growing crooked.  

Although I had been attending a great church with amazing teachings on the weekends for over nine years, I hadn’t truly engaged in consistent, meaningful Christian community in over a decade.

I was on the fringes— a wary, unknown spectator, constantly evaluating the church leadership and the folks around me; attempting to, from a distance, determine the authenticity and integrity of the people I observed.

In my younger years, I had tasted and seen what beautiful, genuine, deep Christian friendships and healthy church leadership could really be like.  I even stayed in touch with a few friends from that era over the years.

But I hadn’t participated in such a thing on a regular basis since just after I got married.  Within two months of saying “I do,” my husband and I had moved out of state to serve as youth pastors at a small church that ended up spiritually abusing and deeply wounding us.  After a few years of trying to muscle through it, we eventually left that situation traumatized, confused, and brokenheartedly disenchanted with God’s fellow kids.

Though I was still committed to the Lord with all of my being, I now found myself haunted by a bedfellow I had never known before: fear.

I was afraid of being manipulated again.  Afraid of being mistreated, misjudged, and unfoundedly slandered again.

So I pulled away.  I isolated myself.  And I turned to the only One who I could ever completely trust with my heart.

It was just Jesus and me for a good long while there.

And for a few years, a certain amount of that solitude was good and necessary.  My husband and I each needed time to regroup and let God alone heal and speak truth to our disoriented, bruised hearts.  We needed to learn to tune into His voice, the Voice that trumps all others, again.

Once in awhile, I would venture out and connect with one of my old, faithful Christian friends, but for the most part I flew solo.

Eventually, I started sensing that God wanted me to branch out and invest in more good old fashioned, face-to-face, Christ-centered relationships.

For several years, in many different ways, He urged me to give His kids another shot, to become part of a real community of believers… but each time I felt His nudge, I cowered in fear and busied myself with “good” and “safe” things.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to survive another huge, church-born heartache again.

But finally, after over a decade of resisting God’s blatant call to trust Him and to live in courageous vulnerability again, I couldn’t resist Him any longer:

“Come, my love,” Jesus called to me.  “I am with You.  I have never, nor will I ever, forsake or abandon you.  It’s time, sweet girl.  It’s time to come out and participate in what I’m doing in the lives of those around you.”

It had been so long… I didn’t even know where to start.  But I knew it was God, so I asked for His help and guidance, buckled up my faith, and strapped on my courage.

I wanted to find my place in this world.  I wanted to grow straight and healthy and balanced again.  And I wanted to do it arm in arm with other people who loved God, valued the real me, and were willing to be bravely transparent in their own challenges and victories so that we could grow alongside one another. 

I didn’t want to journey alone anymore.

So in I walked…

In through the door where I found other women just like me— waiting, smiling, cautiously hoping for someone else to listen to their story, love on them, nod their head with knowing compassion, and say “You’re a mess?  Yeah… me too.”

 

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What about you?

How has being involved in genuine, honest community blessed and helped you in your walk with God?

Please feel free to share your journey in the comment section below.