Let's talk about community. This has become a bit of a buzz word. A popular idea that we throw out expecting that everyone knows what we mean. The problem is that not everyone does get it. This idea is, oh, so personal for me. I was really lost at one point feeling so alone and desperate for connection. Then some women who believed and acted out Romans 12:9-16 for me came along and everything changed. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.”
One of the strongest human desires is to know that one is not alone. Numerous studies and examples have shown the dangers of human isolation. There have been a few tragic cases in which children were isolated from others during their formative years. Sadly, these children never learned to talk or communicate effectively and suffered without the benefits of human interaction.
“Ha!” you may say. “You love to be alone! You brag about days spent alone.” (I've posted multiple times about having a "me party" when Jason and Logan go on trips together.) Okay, you got me. I do love to be alone. I’m a proud introvert and not ashamed to proclaim it. Sometimes, I just need to be alone and refill my emotional stores and process the experiences in my life. I need alone time and that’s okay. What I have learned though, is that I also need people. I need fellow believers who will discuss the Bible with me and share my excitement for God’s magnificent greatness. I need fellow learners to talk about nerdy academic things. I need family to share stories with and laugh about our shared genetic traits.
Sometimes this interaction business can get messy. People have issues and as our lives interact those issues may intersect with your life. Other people’s problems may aggravate you or change your plans. Your friend’s controlling boyfriend just canceled the night out you had planned. Another friend flaked on coffee date you were looking forward to. You find out another friend has been talking about you behind your back. I’ve been so fed up with relationships and people that want to move to a mountain top and never speak to people again. Then I get lonely. So lonely. I’ve prayed for companionship and someone has come along and comforted me. Always God has been there showing me that I can’t be alone all the time.
Here's something else that's important to understand. Everyone has issues. Everyone. Think of the most perfect person you know. They’ve got issues. I promise. Everyone. Big and small we all have problems. Many years ago I thought that I had to be a super hero and carry all my own burdens. I didn’t like the thought of troubling others with my issues so I just held it all in. That was disastrous. When I arrived at Bible Baptist (our church when we lived in IL), a friend reached out to me and gave me the companionship I didn’t think I needed. She listened, asked, and provided much needed friendship at a time when I needed it most. She helped me bear my burdens. Lest you come to the conclusion that you don’t have time for the inconvenience of relationships, remember that you are called to “bear one another’s burdens.” (Gal. 6:2)
The idea of burden bearing can be somewhat confusing. We are each responsible for the burdens that are our own to bear, but we're also told to bear each other's burdens. How can both these be true? If I'm bearing my own burdens I shouldn't need help, right? Think of the packages that come in and out of your own house. Imagine asking your neighbor to help you with picking up one small grocery bag containing only a few items and bringing it inside. It would be ridiculous. You can handle that without help. Okay, now imagine the package to carry into the house is a brand new 70” TV. Alone, you could not safely get this into the house without either hurting yourself or damaging the TV. No. You can’t. Don’t try to be a super hero just to prove me wrong. I don’t have time for hospital visits at the moment. With this package you would need help.
This is how it is with our emotional burdens. Some burdens are your own that you should deal with and let go. These are like grocery bags. You bought the wrong kind of orange juice and your breakfast was disappointing. Grocery bag. The shirt you need for your work uniform got a giant stain on it and needs to be replaced. Grocery bag. Some burdens are bigger though. They are major trauma that you must talk through. You just got in a major car accident and are struggling with the emotional aspect of getting behind the wheel again. 70” TV. Your mom was just diagnosed with terminal cancer. 70” TV. Do not try to be a super hero and hold it together. Some try to hold it together for those they love. That’s stupid. If you have someone who is looking up to you show them that being strong means asking for help.
You need people with which you can share, laugh, and mourn. Friends with whom you can vent and laugh over your grocery bag sized problems will make your day's toil lighter and a week’s end refreshing. You also need a few people that can be there to help you carry in that 70” TV. Someone who looks at you and says, “No, you’re not,” when you tell them you’re doing fine. Someone who can cry over losses and deep sorrows with you and pray for you when you don’t have the words to say yourself. Someone who can be a champion of your hopes and dreams and encourage you to push yourself toward success.
I have good friends. Sometimes we don’t talk as much as we’d like to, but I know I can reach out when I am in need and they will be there. Moving has complicated things, but my friends and I remain close via the vast number of modern methods of communication such as text, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, snail mail, and telegram. (I’ve never really sent a telegram. I just wanted to see if you would read the whole list.)
Something one of those good friends taught me was to get to know others who are out of my intimate group of friends. She made it her mission to get to know other women in her church by taking them out for cups of coffee and getting to know as many of them as she could. Now it's your turn. This is my challenge for you. Below, you will find a PDF with a drawing of cups of coffee. Use the page to reflect on your time together. The cups are just to symbolize you getting out there and spending time with people, but you don’t actually have to go out for coffee. Invite someone out for dinner, a round of golf, an event at the library, anything you think the two of you would enjoy. If the outing is fun, plan another. If it is awkward and you recognize that this person and you are not going to be close friends then be thankful for the opportunity you had to get to know them better and don’t plan to ever hang out alone. But the important thing is to connect with others. Talk. Share. Live in community.
Challenge: Plan and go out with four different people.
1. Someone you are very close with.
2. Someone you were close with but haven’t seen in a while.
3. Someone you see regularly but don’t know much about.
4. Someone you look up to but aren’t usually able to spend time with.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."