“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir on another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV
As we step into the inklings of Spring in Houston, our church is stepping into a new season of Community Groups as well. I can’t even begin to describe what community has meant to my family in the past two plus years, but I’ll try. When we moved to Houston from Southern California in 2015, we knew virtually no one. My husband has family here, and friends from youth group, but in the 15 years he had been gone, many had moved or scattered. We had to make a decision to build community through the church. For us, this looked like entering a lot of situations where we knew no one. It meant allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable momentarily so we could be known eventually.
The payoff is so much better than we ever could have expected. For a few, cautious weeks, we showed up to a couple’s house that we didn’t know at all. But after that awkwardness wore off, the people we met with every week for two years became like family to us. We celebrated with each other and grieved with each other. The seasons that life takes us through two years can be extreme and taxing. This season was no different. Prayer was vital, study was intense, although I must admit that I don’t remember a whole lot of what exactly we studied. Because that wasn’t the point. The point was learning to trust each other and figuring out how to love God through the mess. We learned how to trust in trials. We learned what forgiveness feels like, looks like, and sounds like in real life relationships.
Our souls were created for connection. When connection wanes, our lives can spiral and feel out of control. God, our Creator and Sustainer, knows us so well that He plants people around us to ground us. The process of going through joys and sorrows is not unique in life. How we react, cope, and recover is. This is part of why community is so vital. I’m a super visual person, so I see this process as a circle. The circular movement of joy, hope, loss, struggle, etc. is not the end of our stories. We are meant to share what God has done in us and through us. That’s when we come full circle-when our experience of how God brought us through something gets shared to help someone who may be about to head into a similar experience. There’s power in the sharing. There’s something sacred in the vulnerability.
I think sometimes we get stuck in our Christian lives to the point where we can become different people on Sunday in church than who we are every other day of the week. Forgive me if I directly tie this back to being in active community with other believers. This opportunity is a jumping off point for our Christian faith. The switch gets flipped. We experience God through our group members, we are encouraged in our faith, are challenged in our beliefs and all of a sudden it starts to change us from a Sunday Christian to a Sunday and Monday Christian. The more we invest in our community of believers, the more stretchy our faith becomes until it is feasible to be a Christian every day of the week. Isn’t that part of the goal? To be able to merge our faith with our lives? There’s sacredness in that too.
In case you can’t tell, I’m a big believer in the power of community groups. I’ve also become a big fan of a liturgy book lately that has a sweet liturgy for “The Labors of Community.” Here’s a sweet, rich taste of this writing:
“We are gathered here because we believe that we are called together into a work we cannot yet know the fullness of. Still, we trust the voice of the One who has called us. And so we offer to you, O God, these things: Our dreams, our plans, our vision. Shape them as you will. Our moments and our gifts. May they be invested toward the bright, eternal ends….Let all that we do here, in these our brief lives, in this our brief moment to love, in this the work you have ordained for this community, flower in winsome, and beautiful foretaste of greater glories yet to come.” (Every Moment Holy, Douglas Kaine McKelvey)
Dear Lord, You alone are our Provider and Sustainer. You have put people around me intentionally to help me walk through the hard and the easy. Remind me of how you’ve delivered me from the muck. Remind me of the joy of your mercy and redemption. My story is truly your story. A story of saving, of gently reminding, and of hope for the future. Keep my gaze firmly on You, as I tell of how You have guided and prompted. May the words you give me point only to You and lead others to hope in You as well. In Jesus Name, Amen.