The post below was written by Bri McKoy, a partner and volunteer at Awaken Church.
First Vulnerability. Then Community.
Being around people gives me an indescribable high. You could be a long time friend or someone I just met and the amount of immense joy is the same. Many people close to me have noted how I can quickly turn anyone into a friend, whether I know you’ll be in my life forever or for just a moment.
In college I found out that I am an extravert, which basically means I get energy from being around people. The end of a party rarely meant that it was time for me to wind down. If anything, being around the bright life of people only made me more energized.
When I was dating my husband, Jeremy, I remember noticing the little differences between how we interacted with people. On one particular night we left a dinner party and I asked him if he was sick because he seemed to be quite drained. He looked at me and said, “No, babe, I’m fine. I’m just tired now.” And then he said six words I’ll never forget, “You know I’m an introvert, right?”
Despite the fact that my best friend is also an introvert, this stunned me to no avail. Unable to truly grasp what he had said I quickly responded, “We can fix that!”
I know…I’ve since repented.
He smiled a little, probably amused by how naïve and possibly hurtful my statement was, and said, “It’s not a disease. I don’t need to be healed.” I wasn’t trying to be hurtful when I said he could be fixed, I just really did not understand how being around the humming hearts of so many unique people could not make someone alive with energy.
But I am so grateful God made us all different and I am grateful for how He made Jeremy. Especially when we joined our first small group as a married couple. I was charged with wonder as we entered the house. Everyone was new to me. I flitted about the room meeting everyone, excited to know their name and learn some fun things about them. How was their weekend? Did they go to any fun restaurants? What was the highlight of their week?
We sat down to do our study and Jeremy did something that shocked me. He shared the truth about our lives. To the people we had JUST MET! He shared a little bit of some of the struggles we faced as newlyweds and he shared about where he would like to be in his walk with God and what he felt was keeping him back. I was simultaneously appalled and beyond proud. He cracked our lives right open in front of this new group and he was right to do so. This was our community.
In one year our little community group tackled a lot: deployments, babies, our sins, new jobs, marriages, and death. We all came together every week and broke open our hearts in anticipation that prayer and life with each other could be used by God to put us back together.
God showed us what it can look like to walk through this world loving one another, bearing one another, rejoicing and sobbing with one another. It is beautiful, it is scary, and it is work, but it is always worth it.
I like how Brennan Manning put it,
“The experience of community is neither a luxury for the spiritually affluent nor a panacea for the lonely, bored, and idle. It is, in fact, a necessity for every Christian. It is my personal conviction that this is what Jesus and Paul meant when they spoke of the church—small Christian communities praying and worshiping together, healing, forgiving, reconciling, supporting, challenging, and encouraging one another.”
Manning concludes his statement with a quote from Scott Peck that says,
“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace—and ultimately no life—without community.”
I couldn’t agree more. God has some things in store for me this year. He has plans in store for Jeremy and for you too. Some of them are going to be deliriously beautiful and some of them might be gut-wrenchingly painful – I can’t imagine walking through either without doing consistent life in community.
In a few weeks we are starting up community groups. I am already wide-eyed excited about it. The people! The smiles! The company! But I am also challenging myself to dig into what God had in mind when He called us to live in community, to truly know the needs of those we do life with. And to know someone’s needs, we need to truly know them. We need to create a safe place for them to share their lives by also stepping out and sharing our own lives. Our struggles, our joys, our sorrows, our hopes.
I hope you join me in this challenge. It can feel vulnerable and a little scary, but the richness forged within the community is worth it. Doing life with the people God created is so worth it.