The Joy of Community: A Story of Hope
To be fully known and truly loved* — what a wonderful feeling.
It took me a long time to find out what this really looked like, and I will tell you, it is not about just knowing many people — acquaintances in clubs, friends on social media, or serving in the same ministry — as I had thought for so long. It suited me well to feel a part of something, but as I think about these times in my life, I cannot help but wonder what types of relationships I could have made with my community if I had been more intentional with my time — how I chose to spend it, and who I was spending it with. Investing time to deeply know and genuinely love those around you and letting them do the same to you will yield a return that no packed schedule or endless friends on social media will ever match. Like all worthwhile investments, you have to be in it for the long haul, be committed, and not fear taking risks.
A few years ago, I began living in a new city and attending Woodside. In the first service I attended, I met a few people who mentioned joining a Life Group, and it sounded like a great opportunity to meet new friends and feel more connected to the church. However, I did not fully understand what this meant, what we would talk about, and what would be expected of me. I was hesitant as my biblical knowledge was minimal, my experiences were limited, and my confidence was lacking at the time. Once I realized a Life Group was far different from the social clubs I was a part of in college, I was scared.
I felt I had stepped out of my boat into rough and windy waters, unaware that the voice calling me out was also ready to guide me. I intended to find a group that could help me feel more connected to the church, meet new friends, and keep me in place while I navigated this uncertain, new season of my life. I didn’t sign up to share my struggles with strangers, confide in people I had just met with my insecurities, or show these women that my relationship with Jesus was rocky and immature at the time.
I remember the first meeting with the women that I’ve now spent almost every Thursday with for the past two years. I remember how hesitant I was to open up to share my story to these women, my thoughts and confusion on many of the Scriptures we were reading through. I’m sure if you were to ask them, they could tell you how long it was before I really started sharing at the group. I was second-guessing if it was where I belonged. Still, it took consistency and commitment to show up every week, humility to understand that I was at the end of my rope, and vulnerability to come with fears about my life and questions about God’s Word. And to top it off, a pandemic to prove to me that being alone and figuring things out on my own really wasn’t working.
This is one of my favorite God stories in my life. Looking at the moments of fear I felt of being known, found out, or exposed for who I was and knowing that God was preparing a way for these walls to be broken in and those fears to be found out to be just what they were, lies.
As I wrote before (and many have before me), to be fully known and truly loved is a beautiful gift. We all beg to be known. Regardless of how independent we may be, we yearn to have someone know us and love us. Though no one will know us and love us as fully and truly as God the Father, by taking the risk of sharing our fears and hardships with the people around us, we let a little bit of that love shine through the hearts of those listening to us. And as important as it is for us to relinquish the shield we put in front of ourselves for protection from rejection, we should also do our best to encourage those around us to do the same.
There’s a saying my sister Savannah says about showing up for people: “to be there shows you care.” Though this might sound intuitive, I know there have been many times I have failed to show up because I thought my absence would go unnoticed or would not matter. But when you are committing to a community where vulnerability and trust are the foundation of the structure, showing up only when it is convenient wears away at that foundation. Invest time to fully know and genuinely love those around you and let them do the same to you.
There are numerous lessons and commands from God’s Word on being in community and the joys of sharing your life with others — to both share in the struggles and rejoice in His glory and miracles. As Paul writes in Galatians, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 6:2). God gave us our community so we may rejoice and overcome together, to encourage one another to remain steadfast in His truth.
As I mentioned, I have been with my Life Group for over two years now. There have been relocations, new additions, breakups, marriages, job loss, and a global pandemic that left us squeezed in more ways than I would have imagined. This life promises change, heartbreak, devastation, and celebration. And while I cannot wait for the day when I get to meet Jesus face to face in heaven, until then, I will continue meeting Him through His Word and in community with other believers — knowing that sharing this time with fellow sisters in Christ is a tremendous gift.