The Truth about Having and Finding Authentic Community.
Community, tribe, "our people".
We hear these words a lot, and for those of us who have felt the alone, forgotten, unseen, and not enough junk- they pierce the heart like no other.
I remember being in Middle School and feeling that gut wrenching feeling of loneliness. Of not fitting in, not being enough or wanted. It was a deep and dark feeling.
Those thoughts, and my hurting heart- followed me all the way into adulthood.
I carried the hurt and the feelings, and the only grew worse. Adult friendships were even harder then what I imagined, and healthy ones were envied and unheard of.
I didn't grow up with healthy friendships, and I had no idea what they were.
I wanted friendships that were life-giving and authentic, but I didn't know how to have them, and or better yet, how to find them.
How did I miss learning about this as a child? How could I be an adult, and not know how to have healthy friendships? Because I had friendships and relationships all wrong.
God- being the good father that he is wanted me to understand, love and cherish relationships.
And it would all start with Him.
Their was a constant void no matter what I did, and realized that relationships weren't going to fill it.
He wanted me to understand the healthy tension of solely relying on Him for everything, as well as loving his creation of relationship. He began to do a work. Ripping up all the old and dead roots, scraping out the junk, and began to plant good seeds.
Seeds that would be watered and loved on over time.
I went through a time where I learned that I needed to rely completely on Him. I didn't have any friends, and felt incredibly alone. I now look back, and know that I needed that time. I prayed and prayed for friends. I prayed for Community and people to live life with. I prayed for people who my children could look to, and could call family.
It seemed as if God wasn't hearing my prayers.
But really I just wasn't seeing what he was showing me.
I wrestled with Him on this- "Jesus why am I so lonely?"
Let us not go into friendships and relationships with expectations of anything, but to bring Glory to the Kingdom of God. It is not for our own reward, but to befriend and love on those as an overflow of God's kindness and love towards us.
1. He wanted me to know Him as my Friend. My best friend. My everything.
My identity was rooted in everything but Him. I was obsessed with the Idea of friendships that would cure my heart, and that just wasn't it. He wanted me to allow Him to Love me.
As his Daughter, his beloved, his friend.
2. It was going to take work, hard work- for me to find authentic friendship.
I did not like this one. I wanted it to be easy, just like on clueless- remember when Cher and her friends were driving in her jeep laughing as and signing, and basically living the life?
Remember how much fun they had? Jesus, why can't it be that?
He wanted me to understand, that friendships aren't magically healthy and great in one day. They take time, and care, and loving on, and work. It takes intentionality to truly love someone well.
Real friendships aren't microwavable. That is why this culture, us right now, are having such a hard time connecting and living a life in community. We want yes people, who we can become close with overnight, and want those friendships to be healthy and holy, and it doesn't work that way.
I began to understand what His heart was for relationships. It wasn't about what I could or couldn't get from friends.
It wasn't about how they were supposed to make me feel.
And It wasn't about not being lonely.
Friendship is an overflow of his love for us, and we love and sister well because we get to, because he has called us to it. Not for anything in return, but for His glory.
I began to filter community through the lens of the Cross, and it changed my perspective- forever.
His heartbeat was for us to live in community so that we could encourage each other, to not walk this road alone. It wasn't for us to idolize it, or have it take the place of Him.
So how do we get this community? Where do, our people come from?
For starters, we must be prayerful about our friends, Allowing God to guide it all. I would look at your life, your activities, your job, your local church, and begin to pray about who God has for you as a friend. If you’re at a place where you have incredible friendships, then pray for God to help you steward them well.
To have real, life-giving friendships, it takes hard work, Grace, and Love.
Now, if you're not in a local church or small group, I strongly encourage you to pray about finding the one that God has for you. I do believe and know that not all friends come from the church and or small group, however, it is incredibly important to live a life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and usually that comes from your local church.
If I could sit down with you, and talk through this all, I would try and hit on some important and core things of what God has shown me in this process of finding friendship. My heart has felt everyone one of them, and I pray and hope that they can encourage and help you along the way. Since I only have you for a few minutes- I’ll run down a few below.
- People are broken and messy- just like you and me, Sinners. So be ready to possibly get hurt and maybe Hurt others as well.
- Live a life of vulnerability.
- Live a life of humility.
- Be in prayer about your friends and stewarding your friendship well with them.
- Ask God to bring you, friends. You can ask him just like that.
- Don't ever get to a place where you think you can't be taught. (See Humility)
- Don't limit friendships because of differences of age, race, seasons of life. Those friendships that are out of our "comfort zone" tend to be some of the most incredible, and life changing, and beautiful ones.
- Let people get to know you, for who you are. I'm not talking about "Hey! Life's Great!" Or, put up a wall to not feel weak and or needy. (Current struggle in my life)
If no one knows your hurt, your pain, your struggles, your junk, then how can they be a real friend to you? Don't just share when life is awesome- give them who you are.
-You can't microwave meaningful relationships. You just can't.
- Make time, I know you guys, this one is a hard one for me too. My family and I have a full life, and in the season that we are in, It is hard to even go to the bathroom by myself sometimes- but really, we have to make time. A phone call, a hello text, a coffee. A family lunch and or dinner with them? Maybe it is meeting after work or church. Who knows, whatever it is that works for you in your season, do it.
- Have loving, hard and uncomfortable conversations. Basically: Keep short accounts. This is so important, Friends. If we are going to live a life where we are the Hands and Feet of Jesus, then we will need to say YES, to having the courage in Him, to have hard and uncomfortable conversations. It is gold. The Honey. It is where growth comes from. This applies to every relationship in your life, not just your friendships.
Not harvesting hurt feelings, keeping things deep inside to cause rotting and pain in yours.
None of us- will ever arrive at being great at these things, but we can try through the spirit's enabling power, to do what he has called us to do.
They are beautiful, hard, messy, and Life-giving.
While in the process though, please don't go into hiding. The enemy has a field day when you go in there. He loves isolation- it's his perfect set up, and most of us who don't have a healthy community or a rooted relationship in Him, run to it when the worst of life and hard things happen.
We tend to stay there too, and the damage is real. He spews lies, sow’s seeds of doubt, feeds of your sadness and anger, and plays off of the mess that's going on. My pastor has an incredible saying- since the first time I heard him say it- it stuck with me forever:
"THE SCENE OF THE CRIME IS YOUR MIND." Pastor Derwin Gray
We all know what that means- it all goes on in your mind. We all do this. We make up situations, arguments, and stories. We rip ourselves apart with our thoughts and spew hurtful feelings at others and ourselves.
When you have a community, a friend- they can look at you and say "Hey, is everything ok? You haven't been yourself" And speak life into you. Most importantly, you can go to them and ask for prayer- and a good dose of Truth and Encouragement.
It's incredible, the way that God set this whole thing up. He wanted us to be there for each other.
A friend in Christ will remind you of the truth.
- You are enough because of the Cross.
- You have been ransomed, redeemed and forgiven.
- You are the daughter of a king, and that is more than you will ever want and or need.
- They will go against every lie and will process with you in a healthy way.
- They will call you up in love.
- And in the Name of Jesus, they will love you through it all.
I know that the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone, to live a life in community sounds frightening and BIG. And it is. But, let’s just look to Him, to model Him- to be made in His image, and the rest will come.
We have a God who has shown us the greatest example of Friendship of all time.
The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.
God pursues us, loves us, calls us up- puts a check in our spirit when something is off.
Lovingly corrects, Convicts, guides, encourages, and is Consistently there.
Jesus was and is the best example of human humility, vulnerability, and Grace. And in Him, we can live a life in Community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Starting by loving one another, knowing that we all are broken and messy people, and having understanding.
To seek His Kingdom, and have his will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
Go cultivate friendships, friend. It is more than worth it.