Community, Relationship, Trusting God

Community: When Community Scares Us

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

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?

Click to Tweet: What if genuine community happens because we are the first to reach out?

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

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39 thoughts on “Community: When Community Scares Us”

  1. Oh, golly, Jeanne, what can I say? Community is an integral part of my survival. (When Barb goes to our doctor, he asks, “Is Andrew STILL alive?!” I was supposed to be dead by 2014.)

    I started writing about what was happening, both to document terminal illness and pancreatic cancer (the thing I share, besides breathtakingly good looks, with Patrick Swayze) and to let caregivers and potential caregivers know what to expect.

    And I found that which I did not expect; the love and care of people I have never met.

    I stay alive, fighting very, very hard, for my wife, and for my dogs,and for these wonderful people.

    My community of grace.

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    1. Andrew, yours is a beautiful example of how community ministers to the very core of who we are. You reached out and community reached back. I remember the first you commented on my blog. I was totally intimidated by you! I knew your education level. I respected your comments on blogs we followed. But for you to have visited my site? Wow.

      You reached out. And I’m so glad. And now? Friendship has developed.

      You’ve done that with many people. As you’ve shared your story, people have reached out to you. I love how God does that.

      I love this: My community of grace.

      Praying for you and Barb, my friend.

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  2. Jeanne,
    I wish we lived in the same town…I would love to be “in person” friends with you! You have such a caring and compassionate heart. I think that kind of heart is born out of hurt. You just have a gentle nature about you and yes, I think sometimes in order to have community, we have to reach out first to create it. At least that’s what I’ve found. I agree, that first we have to have a solid relationship with our Heavenly Father lest people and their affirmation become an idol (they did for me). Like me, you have a tender soul and I think the world can step on our hearts easily and so we hesitate….I’m still not good with big groups, preferring the safety of one on one. Great thought provoking post for me…
    Blessings sweet cyber friend,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, I would love to have coffee with you some day! I’ve loved reading your blog posts. Your compassionate heart speaks gently those hard truths we all need to hear. Your heart shares passion for the children your organization helps.

      I love how you describe us as those with tender souls. The world seems to delight tromping on hearts like ours. I’m so glad we have a Heavenly Father who knows how to bring healing and restoration to us. One-on-one relationships are definitely easier for me too. But God still has decided to surround me with a group of ladies to “do life with.” And I am so grateful for that gift.

      I’m sending you a big hug, sweet friend!

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  3. Dear Jeanne, I felt like I was reading my story. But not quite. You are light years ahead of me in wisdom and spiritual growth. I cling to the label of “introvert” to defend my aloneness, even while longing for fellowship. Risking, trusting, frequently seem too painful to reach out to others. I pray your candid and gentle words sink into my soul and begin discovering the bravery you have found. Thanks and blessings, Sweet Friend!

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    1. Awww, Alice. I am thankful God places people in our lives who complement our strengths and “still-growing-areas” in our lives. I so appreciate your passion for God’s word and the way you share it. You’re right, we can use certain labels as an excuse to not engage with people, because it’s just too risky. I’m learning to enter into the deeper places with people, but it’s not always easy. God’s shown me that I will only be filled as much as I am willing to move beyond my comfort zone, if that makes sense. I can observe, or I can engage. I’ve been an observer for most of my life. I’m learning how to be brave and engage. It’s not always easy. As I know you know. I’m sending you a big hug today!

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  4. Risk is a part of loving. So much truth here, Jeanne! I have had this same longing but find I’m a one on one friendship kind of gal for the most part. I appreciated your thoughts on this topic!

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  5. I’m so sorry you were bullied already as a child, Jeanne. That can really put up road blocks when it comes to braving community, can’t it? Thank you for sharing vulnerably the reality that community scares some of us. I’ve been hurt a lot by Christian communities, so I know I still sometimes build a wall around me out of fear of getting hurt again. Actually, the online community, including you, have taught me a lot of what community really can be. I do wish I would be more comfortable with face-to-face community, too. I have learned, too, that embracing the reality that God loves us and accepts us no matter what helps me to let go more of that need for acceptance from people. By the way, have you seen the movie called “Wonder?” I thought about it when I read about you being bullied. Love and hugs to you!

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    1. Trudy, I’ve built walls around myself too. It feels safer, but lonelier too, doesn’t it? I’m thankful for online community too. I’ve been surprised by the depth of relationships that can happen online. And I am thankful that God has allowed yours and my paths to cross. Your tender heart and truth-filled words have ministered to my heart many times. Perhaps as God continues healing in your heart and life, you will find those face-to-face friendships blooming.

      And I just watched Wonder this weekend. Loved. It. I want my boys to watch it. 🙂 Sending you love and hugs back, my friend!

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  6. It’s scary, isn’t it? I am not predisposed to this business of risk taking and going first in relationship, but I”m working at it and trusting for grace to extend myself in spite of the risk.
    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s an encouragement.

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    1. Michele, I’m not one who jumps at the chance to be first to initiate relationship either. It’s kind of a walk in faith, isn’t it? Who knows what God will do when we reach out to others? Thank you for visiting!

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  7. Great post Jeanne! School days can either be heaven or hell depending on that acceptance into community…I too had a bullying time as a child I was always the new kid…. as my parents moved every two years for a new adventure. With red hair, freckles & crooked teeth I became a real target!

    As an adult I became a Clinical Counselor specializing in Adolescent & family counseling… But the greatest healing came from allowing God to mend my brokenness!

    You’re most welcome to drop by for a cup of inspiration anytime!
    Jennifer

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    1. Jennifer, my elementary school days, in particular, were painful. Being the new kid is always hard. I was a natural target too. I’m thankful that God can heal broken hearts, and that His grace helps change our view of things. I’m so blessed by your visit!

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  8. Are you sure you didn’t somehow funnel my thoughts about finding community? Beautiful, encouraging post for those of us who struggle with needing acceptance. Blessings, Tammy

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    1. Lisa, I suspect you are right. Many of us do struggle with creating community. And yes, how we respond to others—and to God’s prompting—makes all the difference. Thank you for sharing here, friend!

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  9. This is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing and reminding us that we need to reach out and offer community to others. People can hurt us so much, and yet heal and help us so much. We can get discouraged, but we have to keep trying.

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    1. Theresa, yes! People can hurt, but people can also heal and refresh and help us. I’m thankful God heals when we’re hurt, and that He encourages when we feel discouraged about community. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  10. It’s sad that we often choose to keep to ourselves instead of risking being hurt. We could all probably have had amazing friendships but missed out. I want to be brave!

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  11. Looks like you’ve struck a deep chord with this one, Jeanne! I can relate to the desire for a “group,” especially when I read books by authors who seem to have these lovely tribes of friends who go back decades and get together every week for lengthy, conversation-filled dinners! Then I have to step back and realize that God has given me good friends during every season of my life. Once I accepted the seasonal nature of friendship, it became a lot easier to accept. Plus, getting to the point (as you explain) where you realize God is the one who completes us is so important. By the way, I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you here AND in person … taking that step to meet up at Panera last summer was totally worth the effort, at least in my opinion! 🙂

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    1. Proof that I need to read my better comments before I post them: “Once I accepted the seasonal nature of friendship, it became a lot easier to accept.” 🙂

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    2. Lois, you make me smile. I’ve read those books by authors where there is a tribe of friends. And as beautiful as that sounds (and is) it’s not reality for everyone…for lots of different reasons.

      It took me time to realize that most of my friendships would be seasonal. And to be okay with that. It’s an adjusting in our expectations, isn’t it?

      I have SO enjoyed getting to know you in person! I’m beyond happy that God allowed our paths to cross. 🙂

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  12. I have reached out to new neighbors to invite them to special events. Also, when we moved from VA to SC, our next door neighbors invited us to church and to special gatherings. 🙂

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    1. Melissa, I’m sure those neighbors you’ve reached out to have felt welcomed by you. And how wonderful that someone else reached out to you when you moved! I have lived in the same neighborhood for ten years (the longest anywhere as an adult!). We’ve had the opportunities to welcome some neighbors to the neighborhood. and we’ve said good-bye to others. It is still a little bit of a stretching for me to make that first step to welcome new neighbors. I’m working on it though. 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting!

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  13. Community is always hard. But I think it is so much easier as an adult. Well, as a stay-at-home mom, I only had to be around those I chose to allow myself to be around. I know it is different when you work outside the home though. But for me, I still felt that need to fit … until we moved one more time. And I’d grown so close to God through Bible study, that I could really say He was all I needed. I think it was in the letting go of myself that He had room to add to my community in unexpected ways. And we moved again … But my girls are grown, and I think they fill that girl-friend place for now. Because I don’t have a close friend here, outside of family, yet I don’t yearn for it. I think there are seasons to life … to need. And sometimes maybe we need to learn to go it alone with God at our side. But I’m going to be thinking more about what I can do to reach out …

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    1. Shelli, coming to a place where God is all that you need is hard. He does have a way of filling us, doesn’t He? And He knows how to move us into places where we are ready to draw closer to Him. I love that your daughters are your friends. Yes. To knowing the seasons in our lives and seeking God for getting through them. I love your words here my friend!

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  14. That’s so good. I have realized and preached the importance of community. I can’t help but think how much Christ lived in community and got away at times to spend with His Father. Both important but one greater than the other. I have found that it is hard to be accepted into a community, but when starting one, it’s much easier. I always tell people, don’t wait, create one. You need it. Others need it. Our culture needs to read this and help young people understand this.

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    1. Nate,you are right. Christ did live in community. I sometimes forget that. Crazy, isn’t it? We have the opportunity to live as He did. I love that you are comfortable with and intentional about starting community with others. So many people are afraid to take that first step. We do need each other, don’t we? Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

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  15. Oh yeah. Those younger days and the whole peer thing was so unsettling. It sure does impact how we see ourselves decades later.

    But God.

    It’s like the more I wrap my arms around who He says I am, the free-er I am to do community with others because I feel safe and loved by Him. What a wonderful Savior.

    And I do love the blogging community we find ourselves in, Jeanne. I am grateful that our paths continue to cross. You stretch and grow me, girl.

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    1. Linda, you’re right. As we become comfortable embracing who GOD says we are, we can live in freedom. We can, as you said, “do community with others.” I love, love your thoughts here. I’m with you. God has given us wonderful community through other bloggers. I am blessed and grateful He has allowed me to meet you and to learn from you, as well! Have a great weekend, friend!

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