I’m on a bit of a power-of-community roll right now, revisiting some old posts that have been rattling around in my head. To me, the purpose of community, “the church”, is to have a place, whatever that looks like, to learn to love God & others and to be loved by God & others.
Like so many other things that matter in the kingdom of God, it doesn’t magically drop out of the sky. It comes through hard work invested in relationship–with God, with others, with ourselves.
Over the years I have taken a lot of flak for over-promoting “healing” in the church. Many are scared of the words recovery or healing. Self-reflection, inner work, soul change is no easy task and requires a humility that scares a lot of us half to death; Bible studies are easier! For me, healing is synonymous with “spiritual transformation” and our formation into the image of Christ is us becoming more whole in our ability to love God, our neighbors, ourselves.
The part we sometimes haven’t been taught in many of our church experiences is what an important role each of us play in each other’s formation.
God uses us in the weirdest, wildest ways to bring wholeness and healing to each other. This is why incarnational, redemptive community is so important.
We need each other.
We all have a story of brokenness, no matter how big or small.
Some of that is through our family of origin, other is through different life or faith experiences. For others we just haven’t been exposed to diverse relationships so we don’t even know what we’re missing.
Over the years my life has been forever changed by having people in it who could embody a healing presence from some of the brokenness I experienced in my childhood and early faith system. I needed a better image of God and myself. Healing has come through people who embodied some of what I was missing–safe male presence, unconditional love, faithfulness and support because I was always used to doing everything on my own.
Community can heal parts of us that have been broken, violated, used, neglected.
None of us can be all things to all people.
But we all have a part to play.
And we all have holes that need filling.
In different ways, we need mothers & fathers & sisters & brothers & daughters & sons.
People of all shapes and sizes and experiences who can help us become more healthy human beings.
Here are a few verbs required for this kind of formation:
Cultivating honest, intimate relationship with others, which includes intention, time and risk. “Going to” church will not do the trick. We will have to be together in the same room, around the same tables, side-by-side, sharing our stories, our fears, dreams, hurts, hopes and generally spending time together beyond just the periphery. It means engaging in conflict, weeping together, celebrating together, nurturing an interdependence that is sometimes foreign for many of us (especially in a culture that espouses independence and control).
Learning to take sexual weirdness out of the picture (and that takes practice). One of the reasons there is so much sexual brokenness in the world, the church, is because we have not learned how to be together as brothers & sisters, equals, with a purity of heart and spirit. We have been fed both subtle and direct messages that say “men and women can never be just friends.” We have lost the heart of brotherly & sisterly love. I had been taught a lot of things early in life how to use my sexuality to get what I needed, to fill a void that needed filling. Now, learning how to have healthy intimate relationships with men other than just my husband has made me so much less fractured and divided.
Noticing places in our hearts, our story, our spiritual experiences that need healing. What’s missing? What do we long for? What are we afraid of? What are some of the barriers to letting ourselves experience these different dynamics of relationship? What is God trying to reveal to us that we may not want to look at? What parts of God’s character are difficult to believe? I have a gut reflex all the time from my history that says “I don’t want to need anyone! I can’t need anyone!” I am with people a lot who need a nurturing mom to heal neglect or a death, a present and safe father, a sister or brother who loves them unconditionally that they can fight or play with, a child to love and care for and believe in. It’s different for each of us, but it’s worth noticing.
Relying on a village. It takes a village. None of us are God. Alone we can never fill the huge and blaring gaps in some of our experiences. The healthy approach is to just bring whatever we can to the relationship and let God do the rest through others. This is why diversity in community is so important–we need all kinds of voices, roles, perspectives, differences. The weird tension is that at the same time we need others, we also have to make sure we don’t demand or expect more from each other than is realistic. Become willing to be thankful for small things that change, heal, reveal helps take the pressure off.
I am extra grateful for our wild and beautiful Refuge community where I see glimpses of this all the time, but I am also sad at how rare it has become.
Many have sought after glamour and inspiration and comfort and forgotten our roots. Messy, organic, intense, healing community was always the idea, the family of God growing up together & spreading the love we were learning to the world.
Oh how the world needs more mothers & fathers & brothers & sisters & daughters & sons!
ps: also up this week is May’s post for Sheloves Magazine–Solidarity Like the Redwoods. I love the metaphor of redwood trees and it sure fits with this idea, too. We really are tangled up together.