The New Rules of Community

The funny thing about new experiences is that you’ve never had them before.

Our experiences build up and we start to think, “I know what I am doing.” But then one day, poof, you encounter something totally different and new.

Recently for me, this newest experience is community after college.

I thought if I had learned anything in college, it was how to do community. You just roll up to the event being hosted so that you can make friends with people with similar interests, say “we should get coffee sometime”, and then boom: one million best friends.

Turns out that isn’t how the world works. First of all, people are older than you and younger than you. They have jobs that are nothing like yours. They have different backgrounds and beliefs. They can have a lot in common with you but they can also be literally grandparents. And suddenly, all of these people are a part of your community.

And you have no idea what to do with that.

Can I trust you with my hurts? Can I be of any help to you in your struggles? Do I have anything to contribute to your life? Will I be rejected after I have invested in you or will I be rejected if I don’t invest in your life?

The clear, concise rules of community were stripped away and instead you are left with a host of what if’s and how to’s. And that can be really scary. When I found myself in that place, half of my heart said, “just give up, you can make it if you stick to the surface. Keep your cards close and play what you have to.”

But that isn’t what God had intended for us. Over and over I heard, “Loneliness is a gift that calls us back into community” or “Press into these relationships and seek opportunities for vulnerability.”

I had preached words like these before to people. I have written blogs about vulnerability and belonging. So why has it been so hard for me to be intentional and be myself? Why was it so different this time?

I think ultimately, I couldn’t place myself and when I couldn’t place myself, I thought the community didn’t have the room for me. I was isolating myself before I had the chance to be isolated. I wasn’t willing to give it time to organically grow either. I was desperate for those deep, three year friendships three weeks in. In case you were wondering, that is impossible.

Luckily, God didn’t let me fall into a trap of my own self-doubt and insecurity. Starting at work, I grew into the community with my co-workers. Sure they valued me as a part of the team, but they loved me too. That is rare. That is a big deal. And I love them too. Deeply. Just like I had with my roommates and committee members. I got to do life forty hours a week with people I love. It is something I won’t take for granted.

Then I had a foundation I could build from. And it gets a little easier once you know you can make it out there. So now I have to keep risking awkward silences and small talk to get to the bigger, deeper connection.

The way I see it, we are all human beings. Whether we admit it or not, we are all afraid of the same rejection and disappointment. But we have the opportunity to step out and do as Christ commanded us, love God and love our neighbor. When we live in accordance to God’s will – and God wants us to love and live in community – He will help us get through the unknown and connect our hearts. You can endure the “get to know you” because it’s the only way to become fully known.

So brothers and sisters, as we keep on living in this crazy world, let’s trust God in the process. Pressing in when things get hard, and giving thanks when things are easy.

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