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Dear Fast & Prayers
This is your reminder that we are fasting and praying (ideally with a friend during what would be Monday lunch) for 1) the courage for men to walk upright and into relationship, 2) the willingness for women to be able to see where they (we) need to change and to change, and 3) marriage for those who are made for it.
When I first moved to DC, my head spun at how quickly people moved in and then away. I’d make a friend, and s/he’d move–to another part of the city, to another church, to another town all together. I quickly realized why people who had been here a few years often operated with their guard up–it’s hard to stay open to new attachments when bonds keep getting broken. And yet, I’ve always known I long for & thrive in community.
Community, though, is neither simply my longing nor the ache of our generation (though a report from Duke University on “Friendship in America” said that 25% of Americans have ZERO close friends with whom they can talk personally). It is an idea woven throughout the Scriptures. It shows up in the Trinity, and it’s in Genesis as God’s provision for loneliness But I want to look briefly at the Apostle Paul, a guy I always thought was like an independent John Wayne in a toga. As it turns out, he’s not.
1) Have you ever looked closely in Acts at the first thing Paul did after he believed? He is led by another (Acts 9:8). This powerful man found himself vulnerable and needy. I have a couple of older mentors whose active leading I’ve sought, but I’m also learning to invite the friends around me who know more than I do (be it about cooking, working with kids with disabilities, running a meeting, relating to men, connecting with God, doing conflict resolution, etc.) to teach me. Something about allowing ourselves to need and receive from others actually embeds us more deeply into community. You might ask yourself, “Who in my current community am I allowing to lead me?”
2) The next thing Paul did? He experienced healing in the context of relationship (with Ananias in Acts 9:17ff). It’s no shame to be broken, wounded, or even to have recurring sin issues. But they way forward is with others. I’ve repeatedly asked my housemates & other friends to pray with me about my aches, my weaknesses & my loneliness, even as I’ve confessed sin and asked for forgiveness. And it is so freeing. As well, when needed, I’ve sought professional counseling and spiritual direction. Nobody gets through life unscathed or sinless, and finding others with whom we can give/receive the gift of healing is worth the work. Who are your truly ‘safe’ people? If you could use a few more, ask God to open doors for friends or ‘for such a time as this’ outsiders. Healing is crucial for (and a deep joy of) community.
3) And after that? Paul simply spent time being with these new friends (Acts 9:19). Since I was a child, I have believed that I am meant for marriage. So I keep orienting myself in that direction. Simultaneously, I know that whether or not I get married, I will be woven into a community for eternity. I like to play and laugh with people, but I can be a bit driven & intense–I have an inner drama queen who, when I’m under-slept or over-stressed, can want to rule. There’s something about simply being with people who like to watch movies, laugh at jokes, trade stories and updates, spontaneously sing musicals or simply talk about a hot new pair of boots that keeps me sane. Who are those people in your life? Can you ask God for more of them if you need them? Does this include married couples and children? Older folks whose children have moved out? Ask God for this too. It’s in line with what he wants for all his people. Community his HIS idea!
4) Lastly, it was out of this context that Paul began to preach (Acts 9:20 ff). Paul’s life emerged as one riddled with community, even as a single guy who traveled for work. But in large part, it emerged because he had a shared sense of mission or purpose with friends. In being about something “bigger than themselves,” they bumped up against their issues, worked them through–mostly, saw God show up, and grew more and more tender towards one another (e.g. 1 Thess 2:6-12). Some of my dearest DC friends are ones with whom I’ve, at least a certain times, been bonded around a shared vision (volunteering at the food bank, organizing book talks, grappling with racial issues, loving kids in common, reaching out to those yet to believe, praying for others, etc.). So if you are feeling particularly without peeps, and you’ve opened yourself up to be led, to experience healing, to simply ‘be’ with others–maybe this question remains as well: “God, to what and with whom should I be giving myself? What would you have me do with all that you’ve given to me so far?” The answers might not come quickly, but–if followed–I bet they will lead to a deeper sense of being in this life ‘with’ others.
Whew! This is all a mouthful. I know the topic is gigantic, but I hope there’s something in this that encourages. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts. Meanwhile, I am THANKFUL this THANKSGIVING to be in this journey with all of you. We do have a community of sorts…
Many Blessings, Connally
P.S. There are two articles I’ve written related to this topic. If you want a little additional reading, you might check out: