Despite her petite frame, I was a bit intimidated by Lindsay when we first met a few months ago. She’s a lovely, capable woman who is passionate about many things. Fortunately, we both volunteer with our high school youth group and I had an opportunity to discover we have a lot in common – coffee, books, travel, writing. Lindsay is sharp and articulate and I’m happy to have her thoughts here on Primitive Roads. Her experience with community is very similar to mine and my guess is that many of you will relate as well.
How Community Changed My Life
I will never forget the Tuesday night during my junior year of college when I made the trek over to a table with a sign that read “Core Group Sign-Ups.” I put my name down on a piece of paper, committing myself to meeting weekly with a group of girls I had never met.
I will also never forget the first time our rag-tag group met. We sat in a circle on the floor, staring at each other and the platter of food that remained untouched. I remember looking around the room, thinking, “this is a horrible idea. I have nothing in common with these girls…well, maybe that girl. She scrapbooks.”
Even though 5 years have passed since then, I don’t mind when Mama Jess (the nickname earned by our leader) brings up the early days when we were afraid to speak and wouldn’t dare pray out loud. It reminds me of how far we have come together. We’ve been through break ups, mission trips, roommate drama, break ups, graduation, career choices, engagements…did I mention break ups?
After two years of walking with those girls, I had a new group of best friends. But I also had something better–the confidence to sign up for retreats, mission trips, intentional living communities, and even an internship abroad.
Through it all, my life was completely transformed.
I realized that some people actually make God a priority in their life- and the result is a life full of joy.
I learned the importance of having people to keep you accountable.
I discovered how easy it is to build relationships with people when you are serving the Lord together.
I learned to put others before myself.
I learned that love and discipleship are the keys to the Christian faith.
I learned that God designed this thing called “life” to be done with others.
I will admit that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing since then. It usually isn’t. The periods of growth and transformation tend to be the most painful.
And now I face a new challenge. Like most recent college grads who are trying to figure out where they will land, my many moves have brought me to a new place. A place where I have struggled to find the community that came so easily in college. It is only recently that I have noticed the repercussions this has brought as I have slipped into my old ways. Remember that list of ways my life was transformed through community? It seems like these days the opposite is true:
I’ve pushed God onto the back burner, resulting in loneliness and exhaustion.
I have no one to keep me accountable, which has led to some poor decisions, like entering into dating relationships that I had no business pursuing.
I’ve become selfish and resent the time that I spend “serving the Lord.”
I find myself living a boundary-less life. Without community that respects my “no”, I end up saying, “yes” to a lot of things I am not passionate about.
I’ve forgotten how to love anyone other than myself.
I’ve learned (and prefer) to do life on my own.
I know that my natural instinct is to turn inward when I am in trouble. Just like Adam and Eve, who hid their nakedness from God after they sinned, we are afraid to expose our sins, our struggles, and our weaknesses to those around us. We like to act as if we have it all together. But it is only when we are able to humbly confess to one another that we need help that we will be able to grow and triumph. With the support of a great community we feel confident enough to take risks.
Sometimes the biggest risk of all is acting on your need for community. I will admit that it took me two years to walk up to that table. I made an excuse every week about why that “wasn’t for me.” But really I was just scared. Because I knew it was risky; I would have to talk about “important things”, and I had always shut that part of myself off.
And now I find myself back at that place. But luckily I’ve seen the wonderful things that community can bring, and that is what I honestly desire.
So what is stopping you? Do you need someone to walk to the sign up table with you? I’m headed back there myself. Together, I think we can do this.