This month we asked a few of our sisters here at Bayou City Fellowship to share how God has drawn them into community and how it changed their life. If you have ever felt out of place or disconnected, whether at church, or home, or just in life, we pray this series encourages you. You’re not alone, you are loved, and you have a place.
When asked if I’d write a post about community, I imagined I’d write about the gift of friendship and the kindness of God to give me good, true friends, most of whom I wouldn’t even know existed except for Bayou City Fellowship. And I could write that post. And it would be true. Because my friends are great, and I do know most of them through church.
But instead, I thought I’d tell you about the thought I had one of the first times I set foot inside Spring Branch’s new worship center at Brittmoore.
This is what I thought: “Maybe I won’t come to church for the next few weeks.”
Yes, I’m talking about one of the first thoughts I had inside the beautiful new worship center that we’re all grateful to have. Yes, I’m talking about the temptation to avoid the Jesus-seeking people of Bayou City Fellowship. (And yes, I’m wondering if this will get posted after those confessions.)
I’m not excusing the thought. But in case you think you’re the only one who has thoughts like that, think again. Community (for all its benefits) is one of the most tempting things to avoid.
There was a song I loved when I was growing up, and one of the lines has stuck with me: “Where is it written those who hold you close are the ones who can hurt you most?” (Sheridan Cosy, Love Conquer All).
It has stuck with me all these years because it is so painfully true.
It is true that the people we are closest to are the ones whose words and actions yield the most wounding power. They don’t mean it (most of the time), but they also don’t realize the power they possess. To disappoint. To discourage. To rip the rug right out from under us. To leave us kneeling there, bloodied and bruised and beaten, while they go right on to the next conversation. (And let’s be real—we’re likely the wounder as often as we’re the wounded!)
So we wonder if it might be wisest to avoid community. Or maybe we are tempted to believe, in that moment of hurt, that we aren’t a part of it anyway—that there is community around us, but we do not belong in it. Maybe I should just speak for myself; I am tempted to believe those things.
That’s what I was thinking as I stood there in our brand-new sanctuary that I’d hoped would feel like a refuge but in that moment felt more like a cage. I was tempted to think I didn’t fit. I was tempted run. I was tempted to avoid it altogether.
Because I was tired of getting hurt. Of being overlooked. Of feeling misunderstood.
So I stood through worship blinking back the tears. And I sat through the lesson with my Bible open but my arms folded tight across my heart. And then I stood again for the prayer time.
Let me tell you something. I didn’t even want God to move in that moment. I wanted to be mad. I wanted to be right. I wanted to be justified. I wanted to stand there in my anger and leave that place with my pride.
But I went through the motions with the rest of the crowd (isn’t that what community seems like when we feel like we don’t feel like we fit—a crowd?). And just as the prayer was ending and the teacher was saying something about peace or joy or abundance (I was pretty tuned out at this point), the friend beside me wrapped her arms around me and said, “I want that for you.”
I didn’t cry then because I’m not much of a public crier. But I relaxed a little. And I let her comfort the part of me that earlier words had wounded (not her words, just to be clear).
And I remembered that community just may be the thing that breaks us. But it’s also the thing God often uses to put us back together.
There’s a verse at the end of Genesis when Joseph is talking to his brothers who had sold him into slavery. (Talk about those closest to us having the most power to harm!) He says to them: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20, ESV).
I know that Joseph was talking about a specific time and place and that in that instance God used their evil to preserve the nation through whom He would send one day send His Son. He literally used their evil to keep many people alive. But I also know this—God’s Word is living and active and still speaks into the circumstances of our lives.
And every single time we are hurt, every single time someone wounds us (accidentally or intentionally), God can take that thing and bring about some good in our lives. Don’t hear me wrong: He isn’t pleased by the harm, but He is faithful in the healing. He doesn’t take hurtful things and ask us to call them good. He takes those hurtful things, and from them, He produces good.
And very often, I’ve found that the goodness our Lord brings from the harm is the nearness of Himself. Very often, it’s in these places of hurt and discouragement that I seek His hand and His presence more intentionally.
And very often, the hurt that pushes me closest to Him is inflicted by hands that never intended the harm. Because when we live in community, when our hearts bump up against the very human hearts of those around us, we are surprised by pain where we expected beauty.
Indeed, there is beauty. But it’s not in the hoped-for perfection of relationships.
The beauty is in the healing hand of God. The beauty is in the fact that He can still use these communities—flawed as we all are—to draw us nearer to Himself. The beauty is in the embrace in the middle of the battle. The beauty is that the same hand that wounds is often the one that wipes the tears.
Community may break us as often as it consoles. But the miracle of community is that God can use this mess to make us holy—to draw us to Himself and somehow, in His grace and mercy, make us more like Jesus.
I decided to keep going to church. I decided to keep standing in the community that occasionally feels more like a crowd. I decided to keep engaging with the people who sometimes wound me (and who sometimes are wounded by me!). And my imperfect encouragement to you is to do the same.
Keep finding Jesus in this crowd. Keep asking Him to make this crowd a community. Keep marveling at His grace to make our imperfect community into the very family of God.