FIRST-PERSON: Looking for community?
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- There's a little watering hole on the way to my sister's old place. As soon as I take the exit off the highway, I know I have 10 miles of curvy country back roads lined with canopies of evergreens before I reach it.
Along the banks of the watering hole is a grove of trees, clustered together drinking up the water. The southerly wind blows and they lean together. The sun shines and a kaleidoscope of colors burst through their branches. I've seen them in a rain shower; they stand together -- deeply rooted.
I'm sure that if one were to take a shovel to that Oklahoma red clay and start digging, their roots would be all sorts of woven together. I'm mesmerized by the scene every time I take that country road.
I feel like we as women are like that grove. When we find community we find roots.
We all know we were created for community with God and one another (Matthew 22:37-40). Yet finding it can be hard. And nurturing it is even harder.
God's design for true community is more than having a group of girlfriends around your age that you go shopping with or have over for dinner occasionally. It is something much deeper and altogether more than we could ever create ourselves.
It is a faithful few walking in the same direction, sharing life and sharpening one another in Christ and for His glory. Community finds its beginning and growing and multiplying in the body of Christ (Acts 2:41-47).
So how do we find true community? It starts with taking a risk, extending the invitation and welcoming the interruptions.
Take the risk
If we want community, we must plant ourselves and commit to our local church, for it is where God designed true community to begin, grow and multiply.
As a former women's minister, I know there are many women who have been wounded by other sisters. If you're reading this and have been wounded by another sister in Christ, I want in the same breath to acknowledge your pain, ask God to continue to shine His mercy and healing on you, and with an arm linked in yours gently ask you to take the risk again toward letting a wise and mature sister in Christ into your life. Our God cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
We all want to hear the words, "I struggle with that too!" Yes, community requires us to be vulnerable and share what God has redeemed us from and what He is walking us through now. But it also requires us to recognize the lies of the Evil One -- lies that keep us from taking the risk and walking in power and victory because of perceived silent judgement from other women and self-condemnation.
If you need someone to release you or give you permission, let this be the day you take off your mask and let people into your life. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and as sisters in Christ we have no rivals (Galatians 3:26-28). We are free to share life and grow in Christ together.
Extend the invitation
Years ago, I extended an invitation to nine young women in my church and 10 older women. The night was brought together by the gifts of so many women. Annie brought the eucalyptus and vases. Terri brought the BBQ with all the comfort food sides. Dana let us use her backyard. It happened over sweet tea in mason jars and under a summer sky. We sat around a long table with women of all ages -- college girls, widows, young mamas, single women, empty nesters. Sky brought us a word from God's Word. And as we cut the pie and passed the pitchers, deep conversation flowed.
It was beautiful and life-giving. It was the start of true community. It was the start of a new grove.
Whether it's over coffee or day-old bread, reach out to another sister this week. While you won't connect with everyone -- and that's OK -- don't let your past or present encounters keep you from extending the invitation.
Welcome the interruptions
Nourishing a new community takes time, prayer and welcoming the "interruptions" that come from caring for one another. Did you know that Scripture contains 59 verses that beckon those in community to care for one another? Here are just a few:
-- Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2).
-- Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32).
-- Care for one another (1 Corinthians 2:25-27; Philippians 2:3-16).
-- Build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
-- Spur one another toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
That long table of women later grew into "oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3). We celebrated births together. They walked with me through the death and grief of losing my mom. We were vulnerable and shared deep hurts and struggles with sins. We welcomed in a few other women new to the faith and older in the faith. Our prayer lives were strengthened. There were wounds, and we forgave and grew from them with the Lord's help.
Are you looking for community? Remember you are not alone. Take the risk. Extend the invitation. And by all means welcome the interruptions that will sharpen and sweeten your life.