Last week we talked about honesty and openness: the importance of looking ourselves in the eye and presenting everything we see to the Lord, and the benefit of letting helpful people speak truth into our lives. (Check out that post here.)
Today, let’s talk about one of the main purposes of honesty and openness: Building Community.
This is an enormous topic, much too large for one blog post. Let’s break it down to its smallest element.
Community Starts with You
We are learning to see ourselves clearly. Remember the pile from the storage closet? Remember how you are deeply understood and eternally loved by your Creator? (Seriously, go back and read the last post if you haven’t.)
We are learning to acknowledge our desperate need for God, living in a posture of dependence.
This is the new you. A beloved mess, under renovation.
Building a life-giving community begins with you being honest and open about what you are learning to be true about yourself.
It’s about sharing the new you with other people.
I know. It’s not easy. Especially if it seems like everybody else has it all together.
What if people think I’m foolish for saying I can’t do life without God? Maybe there’s something wrong with me—like I just can’t cut it on my own.
Okay. But what if we substituted the word “oxygen” for the word “God”? Read through that thought again.
The more you practice, being open and honest about your need for God starts to feel the same as admitting to people that you need oxygen to breathe. It’s just true.
Even so, it might feel terrifying, especially because our culture is not big on rewarding humility. But we have to decide…
Do we want community or do we want an audience?
Do we want to take turns trying to impress each other, jealous of each other’s success and smugly self-righteous towards each other’s failure? Shall we gossip behind each other’s backs until it is our turn to put on a show?
Or can we lay all of that aside for something more important?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35
When we collectively agree that having it all together is the highest value and spend all our time and effort pretending that we do, we isolate ourselves in the middle of a crowd.
Instead, God is calling us to love each other as He has loved us.
How God loves you needs to sink down deep into your soul. That is the place from which we can move into community.
His love becomes a well inside of us, covering our sin, casting out fear, quenching our desperate thirst, and springing up into eternal life.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living waters.’”John 7:37b-38
This grace we so freely receive despite the mess we are is not meant only for ourselves. It is meant to pour out of us.
When we are painfully aware of our desperate need for God’s grace in our lives, we will be willing and able to extend grace to those around us.
So how do we make the shift from performances to communities?
Start with Prayer
One “low-risk” but crucial step is to begin to pray for the people in your life.
Pray for people who you know are struggling. Recognize that you are on the same team. Pray for God to strengthen them, to bless them, to hold them up. Dare to reach out a hand in friendship.
Pray for people you struggle with. Watch it change how you see them. It’s difficult to harbor feelings of resentment, to be envious, or to gossip about someone you are praying for.
Praying for others prepares you to be aligned in community. You begin to realize you are all in need of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Your common ground is found at the foot of the cross.
We Need to Talk AS Helpful People
In the last post, we covered the fact that we need to talk to the Lord and to helpful people, but there’s another step. We need to talk as helpful people.
We’ve got to stop hiding the fact that we need the Lord.
The truth is, everybody struggles with something, but not everyone is ready to let their walls down. And that’s okay.
Just be a voice. There are people who are waiting for someone to break the ice.
Our world needs us to speak the truth. To break the secrecy of silence. To give voice to our struggles, rather than denying their existence.
Our children need us to admit we are human. They need us to courageously face our darkest selves in the light of God’s grace—and to talk about it.
They don’t need another lesson on how to keep up appearances. Instead, teach them how to run unashamedly to the Lord for their strength.
You don’t have to have it all together before you encourage someone else. This is the current story of my life.
Actually, I have not always been the best at being open. Some of you who know me in real life had no idea I struggled with anxiety until I started a blog about it.
Let’s just say this is a crazy new concept I’m learning.
The beautiful thing about acknowledging your need for God and letting other people into your life is that when you have a rough day, you have people to tell.
They’ll understand when you text a quick, “Hey, could you pray for me? I’m really struggling today.”
Community is a blessing God gives us. We need comrades for the long journey ahead.
So let’s cancel our performances and let God’s love do its work.