It Takes A Village

 
It Takes A Village .jpg
 

Community. We all seem to want it, but at the same time many of us seem to be repelled by it. In my conversations with people, I hear story after story of how they have been rejected or excluded from church and now they refuse to step out to build friendships.  

The Church is flawed. There’s no escaping it. It’s filled with people like you and me, and as much as I tell my husband I am practically perfect in every way, I know that my imperfections hinder, hurt, and frustrate others just as much as the next person. 

But still, no matter how busy we can make ourselves with life, we need people more than the American Dream. We need people to speak life to our hearts. We need people to champion us. We need people to love us, encourage us, and point out our blind spots. We need people to laugh with us, to believe in us, and to cheerlead us.  

Without community, our brokenness will triumph over our hopes and desires. Just look at King Saul and King David. Both were anointed king by God. Both of these men where fit to lead a nation. But both messed up. There were many differences in their leadership, but I have recently been meditating on how David allowed a man of God to speak into his life whilst Saul refused to listen to anyone. 

Like Saul, a lack of community, a lack of wise voices in our lives can ultimately be our downfall. 

But still, many of us choose to remove ourselves from community. After rejections, knock-backs, and let downs, we decide that relationships are “drama” and choose to focus our attention on only a trusted few. Some choose a trusted pastor, their spouse, or maybe a best mate. But the circle is small and it’s safe.

The ancient proverb tells us that, “It takes a village to raise a child”. But I’ve discovered it’s not just about the raising of children – it takes a village PERIOD. It takes a village to build a career. It takes a village to prosper emotionally. It takes a village to have a strong relationship with God. 

 In their best selling book, “Boundaries”, Cloud and Townsend describe;

“We all need more than God and a best friend. We need a group of supportive relationships. The reason is simple: having more than one person in our lives allows our friends to be human. To be busy. To be unavailable at times. To hurt and have problems of their own.  To have time alone. Then, when one person can’t be there for us, there’s another phone number to call. Another person who may have something to offer. And we aren’t enslaved to the schedule conflicts of one person.” (P111)

You see, when we only allow a particular one or two people into our lives, we are placing enormous pressure on them. In our quest to create a comfortable life for ourselves, we are limiting the choices of besties and giving them very limited scope to be human. So when they are unavailable, when they are hurting or needing time alone, we end up feeling rejected, let down, and totally disappointed.  

Jesus was into community. He had the three (James, John, and Peter), then the twelve disciples, and also His larger group of followers. He had pockets of friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. As much as He prayed and spent time alone, people were clearly Jesus’ thing.

In this season of my life, I am discovering community with people that I never expected. It’s easy for me to choose my BFF and my husband, but it’s harder to create a wider circle. It’s scary. It makes me vulnerable. I have to work a little bit.

But my community is gradually becoming rich and varied. Some people in my community can speak to my heart and some to my parenting. Some I laugh with, some I have deep conversations with, some I can do both! Some can offer help with my littles, while others can only pop over for coffee every few months. 

So try it. Let go of your hurt. Open your heart. Don’t just focus on those who are your “first round pick”. Look beyond your inner circle and cast your net wide! Love people. Remove pressure and expectations, and give them choices. Ask God to be in the process. Ask Him to lead you to your people. Like we read in Matthew 7, if we ask God for bread, He’s not going to give us a stone. So if we ask Him for friendships, He’s not going to give us a bunch of crazies. 

Make community. Build your village. 

 

Yoga Pants

I have been thinking about yoga pants recently. I love my yoga pants!  They are so forgiving of my body, comfortable and cozy!  They don’t hold me in, squeeze my squishy parts or make me feel exposed in any way.  I have no muffin top whilst wearing my yoga pants and I feel great!

I think most of us are fans of ‘comfort’. We like what is familiar and what is known. In our comfort zones we feel safe and we are at ease. There’s no stress, no anxiety. We do not feel vulnerable. Life is good in our comfort zones.

But on the flip side, when I am at home, snuggled up in my yoga pants, life can get dull. Yes, rest is vital for a healthy lifestyle. But life in yoga pants robs me of many experiences. My life doesn’t move forward and I don’t grow as a person.

When Josh was serving in combat, he rarely saw a pair of yoga pants. Life in the Army, especially whilst at war, was about advancing. As a solider he was charged to bring peace to a war-torn country. There was an enemy and so he dressed appropriately. He wore layers of clothing, boots and headgear that would protect him, give him insight to defeat the enemy and bring him home safely. Josh didn’t know if he would make it out of the country alive so he did all he could to prepare. He wore such heavy clothing and equipment, that he thought his knees might blow. No… There was no comfort at war.

 
Josh in Army
 

And then I think of me on my wedding day. I loved my wedding dress. I felt like a million dollars walking down the aisle to my groom. But that dress HURT. The boned corset dug into my ribs and the heavy satin skirt prevented me from sitting down. I was so happy to take that thing off at the end of the day, and I am not talking for sexy sexy reasons!!! It was a relief to get that thing off as I could finally breathe and sit down!! But on June 23rd 2012, my life certainly advanced. I became a wife and my life moved from singleness to marriage.   

 
Wedding Day
 

Now war and weddings seem to be polar opposites but both involve advancement and preparation.  There was a cost to Josh serving in Iraq. There was even a cost to me wearing my dream wedding dress! If we had worn yoga pants, the outcomes for both of us could have been very different!

Right now I am facing my metaphorical wardrobe and I am deciding whether to wear my comfortable yoga pants or not. Sometimes I get confused on what God wants for me. Sometimes I think He simply wants me to be happy and I assume this means that life should feel easy.  But this is not the truth. God is a good father who sees the bigger picture for my life. God wants me to know and experience Truth in the deepest parts of my life (Psalm 51:6), He wants me to love people (John 13:34) and He wants me to grow in faith (Hebrews 11:6). These things are hard to achieve while living within my comfort zones.

Our comfort zones are unique to all of us. Sometimes we are content with our relationships and we don’t step out to talk to anyone new. Sometimes it’s our careers and the level of our financial income. Sometimes we find identity in our role within the Church.  Whatever it is for you, it’s scary to step out and put ourselves in a place of vulnerability.  Yoga pants feel nice while regular pants, not so much.

I look at the map of the Apostle Paul's travels and it's clear that he never stopped moving forward with his life goals. He didn't grow stagnant but keep moving on to new cities to meet to people to teach them about Jesus. Paul is also the one who wrote that he presses on to “reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14, NLT).

 

Apostle Paul's journeys

I am challenged, but I see hope in the unfamiliar.  I don't think I will be galavanting around the Mediterranean, but I see my unchartered waters holding new experiences, people and places that will thrill me, stretch me and (more than likely!) cause me to ask God for help.

So today, let’s press on. Let’s advance. Let’s move forward, get out of our yoga pants and embrace the unknown! It really is so exciting!!!