I believe we women (and perhaps men too?) have a deep desire to be known, accepted. And just as deep is a fear of not being accepted.
Most of my life, I’ve waited to be invited into community. As a girl in elementary school, sharp words slashed across my heart, ripping open the skin of who I thought I was.
I entered school thinking I was enough. I was a nice girl, a girl others would want to befriend.
It only took a year to have that concept slivered into tiny pieces. All through school, I tried. I wanted to be part of a community.
All through those early years, I was bullied, hurt, belittled. Proven to be less-than.
It only takes one of those kinds of years to re-frame how we see ourselves.
For most of my life, I’ve chosen to live on the fringes of community because it felt too risky to try entering in.
Who wants to put themselves out there, revealing the pretty and the ugly inside, only to be convinced that the ugly is more than others will bear?
Through my college years and beyond, I collected friends here and there. I had (and have) community with them. We shared our hearts. Our joys. Our struggles.
I always wondered what it felt like to be part of a group of friends who all did life together.
I sometimes wonder if God withheld this from me because I sought the acceptance of people more than the fellowship of my Father.
Sometimes we must come to understand that God truly is the One who completes us.
Who accepts us.
Who fills us.
Who sees us—all that’s inside, hidden from the world . . . and He loves us anyway.
God often waits until we come to Him, entrusting Him with the hurts, the fears, the uncertainties.
He wants us to trust Him to love us first. He knows our frames. He knows we are but dust. He knows the hateful, hurtful thoughts we’ve had toward others. He knows the wounds inflicted on tender heart flesh.
Sometimes we need to understand we are loved and accepted by Him first, regardless of how others respond to us.
Sometimes grasping this sweet reality is what offers us our brave to begin reaching out to others and create community with people.
As I read a post about community, God reminded me I’m not a victim. I’m not less-than.
What if genuine community happens because we are the first to reach out? If we’re honest, we’ve all been hurt by people. By Christians and by others who have been hurt.
The question is, are we going to look beyond the hurt?
Will we be brave enough to extend love? Even if it is not returned?
Community is built by reaching out. And grasping the hand that reaches out to us. It’s deepened when we choose to trust others with our hearts.
Sometimes community comes to us, extending the hand of acceptance.
Other times, we take the first steps to build that circle of acceptance. We are the ones called to reach out to others. To listen. To create a safe place where we can share our struggles. Our life-hurts.
It’s risky. It can be messy.
But, it’s in community where we grow, where relationships deepen. Where we watch God show up in sometimes miraculous ways.
The circle of community is where we learn how to love and be loved. Even when we mess up. Where unintentional hurts . . . occur.
We learn how to “do life” with others walking alongside us. We discover the heart-deep acceptance that comes from messing up and being forgiven. The depth of love that comes from forgiving one who hurt us.
It’s scary. Knowing we can be hurt after sharing our struggles—our fears—with others. But, it’s in the risking, in the loving, in the being vulnerable where we gain glimpses of God’s beautiful, deep love for us . . . extended by those around us.
We can only be known as deeply as we are willing to share of ourselves. And, we can only be loved as deeply as we are willing to become vulnerable.
When we risk sharing all of ourselves, we can find the depth of love our hearts yearn for.
I’m still learning how to share my vulnerabilities with the community God’s placed around me. And to trust Him as I share.
And as I share, others feel safe confiding in me.
When I share with another and find acceptance there? That’s when I know and am known. That’s the place where I meet with God in sometimes surprising ways.
In turn, I love and am loved in the place of trusting.
What about you? When have you reached out to others and created community? What is one thing God has taught you in community?