Who are your people? Do you have a group of friends who are your tribe, or your “home team”? Those people you can tell the truth to and they won’t throw you out? They may kick you in the butt when that’s needed, but they’ll also hug you and say “It’s gonna be ok honey”.
My husband, John, has gotten a little bit sick of me raving about a community of young married couples I have the privilege of hanging out with. They are called Catalyst, and they inspire the socks off me.
Right from the start, they have leaned into the sacrament of community. They are my heroes in this regard.
There are five vivid snapshots of our life-together that come to mind, highlighting characteristics of authentic, life-giving community. I thought they might be helpful to share:
- Dare to be Vulnerable. We have many couples in our community who are having babies. Others are struggling with infertility.
Recently, one couple delivered an adorable little girl. But mom (Ally) struggled with postpartum anxiety. She felt like she didn’t bond immediately with her baby. She couldn’t breast feed. She was afraid to leave the house. She said she had to avoid all the happy clappy new mom stories on Facebook because it made her feel shame.
The great thing is that she was vulnerable. She shared all this, honestly with our community.
And two things happened.
First, people stepped up. Monica showed up with lunch. Nora came over and watched baby Kit so Ally could take a shower. Jess brought a day-brightening gift. Kendra met Ally at Mom’s group and we all prayed.
The second thing that happened is that those struggling with infertility or other things out of their control, were encouraged in a small way that having a baby isn’t the magic key to “happily ever after”. No one thing is going to complete us other than Jesus.
Sharing our messy, hard stuff builds community. When we only share our shiny stuff we nurture comparison and envy.
2. Keep Short Accounts. A few weeks ago I got an email from a woman in our community who had inadvertently had her feelings hurt by others in Catalyst. She struggled with whether to say something or not. She fretted because she didn’t want to be overly sensitive. But before she could decide on anything, one of the other women called and said, “I sensed your hurt after our conversation. I’m sorry. Let’s figure out what we can do about this.”
When we pay attention to the feelings of others and keep short accounts we say “We all mess up and everybody matters.”
3. Question for Better Understanding. This winter we had a new initiative at church. It was risky and had the potential for being divisive. Leadership did their best to be totally transparent and communicate information in every way possible, but Jimmy, one of the men in our community sensed it was not a resolved issue for him or others, so he took the initiative to invite leaders to come to our group so we could question for better understanding. That made all the difference for getting everyone on board.
When we don’t question for better understanding, we often go to the worst interpretation of a situation instead of the best.
4. Name the Elephant in the Room. Meghann is a woman in our community I value greatly who has the gift naming what’s going on under the surface – that thing everyone may be thinking, but is afraid to acknowledge. She’s one who won’t let others put up a mask of “I’m fine.” She is amazing at finding appropriate times and ways to not let the elephant hide in the corner, but instead, out him in ways that bind us together.
When we bring everything into the light we don’t allow darkness and fear to win.
5. Keep Showing Up. We have folks in our community who have been out of work for long periods of time, and others who have struggled with miscarriages, or concerns about their child’s development. In those times our inclination is often to hide in shame, but my people in Catalyst bravely have kept showing up, and the community has tried to discern when to ask questions, or offer help, and when to just let people BE in our midst.
Ok, now time out. I’ve named five characteristics I see in this amazing community I get to hang out with, BUT… community is MESSY! There are no magic pills, or 5 steps to sure success. Community is filled with tears and laughter and forgiveness and people accidentally stepping on your toes. It can be scary. (In case you didn’t know that 🙂 )
Are you in a vibrant community? What characteristics do you see that make it life-giving?