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thoughts on community: spoiler--it's essential.

Posted by Laura McCullough on

i've been thinking about community for awhile. with the holidays here, many of us will be in close proximity with people. it can be healthy or unhealthy, embraced or barely tolerated, just another day or maybe, this year, a step toward building intentional relationships that light up our world with meaning.

my soul needs alone time. for sure. without it, i'm an irritable grump with very little patience for my daily tasks and people. but there's a beautiful magic that frees my soul when i have people i know and who know me--some of them are blood relatives. many are not. some i see often, some i don't. and some i have deep relationships with, while others are not as deep but are still vital to my soul health.

the bottom line is, i love to belong. i love to be known. it is essential to my mental health to practice the art of being in community. it's not easy. it's not always comfortable. but i believe living in relationship with each other mirrors the intent God has for living in relationship with us. being known is important to me...but in order for it to become a vibrant part of my life, i've had to back up, evaluate, and make it a practice to first know other people.
i learned community in a small town. small school. small church. large family.
familiar everything in the heart of Michigan.

i learned it again in our ministry, onetimeblind. a handful of people in a bus, living together year after year, makes you learn or get off the bus. living so long in a small mobile space forces vulnerability and working-out-issues and acting with love. together, we've formed community in countless cities. hundreds of churches and venues. meeting new people and connecting in the most ordinary ways. we have friends in many spaces. dear friends who are living proof that community is spiritual and alive and valuable.

in our season of living life locally, in a Metro Detroit suburb, i’ve experienced the version of community most of us live in…wishing for it but not knowing how to get it. i've been forced to embrace some principals and practices that aren't always easy. but i've found they're so, so valuable--and i figure if they've helped me, they may help the women around me.

1. i must be brave. connections take effort. trial and error. putting myself out there and trying out new experiences, new groups, new people. it’s not comfortable. but you learn as you go. be willing to be awkward and not know what to say. just do something brave each day. action cures fear.

2. i must notice. the woman next to me at the grocery store. the mom at school drop-off. the lady i see around town that i don’t know but keep running into. the mom on my kid’s sport team whose kids are the same age as mine. the neighbors on my street. the lady who walks in my neighborhood. the woman sitting alone at the school events. the family member i see without connecting.

3. i must be intentional. i must decide i want to be connected. and then i must intentionally connect. ask a question. give a compliment. make eye contact. smile. be glad to see someone. invite someone to have coffee. have no agenda. just meet the people you notice and ask questions. learn their stories. let them share and encourage their hearts.

4. i must be vulnerable. be real first. be the one to share the struggle. the flaw. the reality that life isn’t perfect or rosy and lots of days we don’t understand how to make it all work. we fail. we wish we did things differently. we eat too many donuts. we say the wrong thing and secretly feel out of control. here's the magic--the minute i share, i give permission to the woman next to me to share, too.

5. i must commit. to see. to know. to do. to give my time or energy or heart and believe the best in another person. to be present when i'm with people. to make space for people in my life, in my family, in my home. community forms over time, one step at a time. i must be committed to the steps.

6. i must choose together-living. it’s easy to forget. to isolate. to pout or drown in self pity. i must move outside myself, and that takes courage. but not just any bravery—it must come from reliance on someone stronger and more courageous and more capable than i am. i can do the brave thing because i trust that the lord cares about the tiniest details of my life and is willing to help me thrive. it’s my choice to connect. And i choose yes.

community is as essential to our health as air. it is the jesus way. i’m committed to forming it, living it, and teaching it. we so need it to thrive in this earth life. and i get really angry and my heart hurts when community breaks because of our blindness or stubbornness or irresponsible humanness.

women need each other. men do too. real adult life is hard. momming is hard. friendships are challenging. work is stressful. life is chaotic and overwhelming and half the time we don’t know what we’re doing.

but

we are the change-makers in our spheres of influence.
we are the brave ones.

so let's take the first or next or hundredth step—
because there is power
and peace
in jesus-style
connection.

let’s fight together
for meaningful community
by being the ones
who care enough
about being known
that we dare to know
another soul.

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