How in the world do you develop a sense of community when you or the people around you are always moving? You may think that it’s just too hard. Besides, it can be painful when you separate. But stop and think. Isn’t it really worth it to have deep friendships with people who really know you and need you and give themselves to you? Actually we need community; God says that we were made for it! Dive in here to get a glimpse of others’ experiences and advice on community.
At some point in my life I made what many people call their best friend. It’s a strange thing really, how two people can come from totally different places and become such good friends. While I don’t know for sure when we became best friends, we both agree by third grade we were the closest thing each of us had to a best friend.
While we didn’t go to school together, we did go to church together. It was just the two of us. By this point all of our other friends had moved onto bigger churches with bigger youth groups and the only other students left were two years older than us, or my little sister (someone I did not appreciate at the time). So, it was just the two of us. While the older kids didn’t have many nice things to say about her or me, we let them be, and most of the time they let us be. That was one of the reasons our bond was so strong; we faced those kids together, stood up for each other and supported one another. She was my PIC (Partner in Crime) for snow days, sleepovers, Saturday cleaning days and games. We spent as much time together as we could and talked on the phone every chance we got. She was my best friend, my confidant, and nothing could have ever separated us.
While I was never a military kid and don’t have first hand experience in the military environment and all the unique issues that each of you face, I do have experience in community, friendship and leaving people behind, just like each of you. Like you, I feel the deep pain of change.
As my best friend and I approached seventh grade, her Dad, a world traveler, got news of a transfer for him and his family from Chicago to Philadelphia. It hurt so bad to have her leave. We had banded together and faced so many different challenges together and now it felt like she was being ripped away. The person I shared all my secrets with, the one who knew my strengths and weaknesses, she was leaving me.
I didn’t know what to do. In fact when she left, I never even said good-bye. Our family went down to visit my Grandparents in Florida and when I came home, she was gone…
All these years later, she still lives in Philly and I’m in Chicago, our friendship never did return to what it was… for a long time I felt betrayed. My best friend had left me, our inside jokes had died, and I was left to face the older kids alone. I had trusted her; she held so many of my secrets and I had trusted her with much of my heart. I was bitter and didn’t want to open up to anyone again because the pain I felt (though I didn’t understand it at the time) cut deep.
While our friendship never went back to what it was, it got better. I’m not saying it was easy, I’m not saying there weren’t months and months that passed by without us talking sometimes. All those things happened; but what didn’t change was the connection that we shared because we had something in common, our background and our faith in Christ.
What my best friend and I shared was basic community. Each of us has come from different communities, some of them good, some of them not so good. You have the community from the last place you lived before you PCSed, the one before that, maybe even the one before that, as well as different sports teams, church groups, school clubs, family and anything else you are involved in. But true community runs deeper than just surface level connections. True community, healthy community, knows you for who you are. Kind of a scary thought. You may be thinking what I thought, “Why would I open myself up like that again?”
When God created us, he made us to be in relationship with one another. We see in Genesis that it was not good for man to be alone. While I may not always understand it, I think the creator of… well, us, probably knows what he is talking about. You see, it’s in community that we learn more about who we are. Try this little exercise with me: Think of one of the happiest days in your life… got one? Now consider this: You weren’t alone in that memory, were you? When we allow ourselves to enter into a healthy community with others, we learn more about ourselves. Your strength is often my weakness, and vice versa. So, we need each other. You see in me what I can’t see in myself, and together we become stronger; we grow in all areas of life together. Iron sharpens iron, and so, you sharpen me.
Sure, there will be people who hurt you, break your trust, but as C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) points out, when we lock out hearts in a box and throw away the key, we slowly suffocate ourselves. Not only that, but, when we lock out others, we also lock out God.
Though building community can be hard and scary, especially over and over again, it is our friends who help bring us life. When friendships and communities are cared for, saying good-bye again is hard, but the best of friends stick with us forever. They have changed who we are and how we see the world for the better.
Today is not forever; don’t let the troubles and sorrows of today stop you from living your life and looking toward the future. Relationships are beautiful. Allow yourself to be open so that you can experience the community God desires for you.
Nehemiah is one of my favorite people to study in the Old Testament; and while there are tons of lessons we can learn from Nehemiah about prayer, faith, obedience and other things, one of the coolest things that we see through his account is just how powerful community can be.
The Israelites have been scattered yet again and when Nehemiah hears about how his home country has been left in shambles, the wall to protect Jerusalem destroyed, he cries out to God, and God answered. Nehemiah faced some tough challenges before getting back to Jerusalem but he had faith, and God was faithful. Now with Nehemiah back in Jerusalem he examined the wall and began the work of repairing the walls. But he wasn’t alone; that would have been an impossible job! God was leading Nehemiah to complete this project, but not alone. When we look at Nehemiah chapter 3 we see the names of over 20 different people and groups who repaired different parts of the wall.
If you would like to take a look at the actual list, check it out!
Scripture: Nehemiah 3:1–32
- Have you ever noticed yourself backing away from a healthy community? Why do you find yourself backing away?
- What do you think would have happened if Nehemiah decided to do it on his own? How would it have changed what happened?
- We all dream about different things. What is one dream that you had and saw through? If you had help, who helped you?
- What bad things, decisions, character traits, etc. has a bad community brought into your life? How would getting plugged into a good community and sharing those bad choices with them help you heal and become more the person God created you to be?
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Father God, I know that when I enter into community, I am entering into something good that you made for me. Give me courage Father;it’s hard not being in any place long and losing friends when they move, but I also know that these are people that you put into my life. Help me to learn from those around me, to trust those around me, and to learn to love those around me. Give me wisdom as I enter into new communities; help me to see whether or not these new communities will be healthy ones for me and guide me to those who can help strengthen me. Father, I know that sometimes I may get hurt, but I also know that you are good and you will be there for me to pick me back up when I feel alone. Guide me, Father, in the name of Jesus.