Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Being Real

One of the blogs I try to follow is called http://www.incourage.me They are presently running a weekly series on being in community, what that means and what it entails. For example, http://www.incourage.me/2012/09/community-matters.html

"Are you living in community?

That question sure seems to be popular right now. The encouragement to develop authentic, doing-life-together relationships with people, the chastisement to stop hiding, stop being afraid of getting hurt – it’s all the rage, isn’t it?

So we’re all plodding along, pushing through our fears, our nerves, our past experience that tells us people can be challenging and relationships can be complicated. We’re accepting invitations, asking hard questions, offering a hand or a hug to someone who needs it.

But how do you know when you’re finally doing it, when you’re doing life together, when you’re living in community?

True community can be elusive, like the unicorn or Smurfs. But after searching for it so long with such determination, you want to know when you’ve found it, am I right?! Lucky for you, I’ve figured out exactly how to know when you’ve really found community – and I’m happy to share.

How to Know if You’ve Found Community

Now, you might think that the first clue that you’ve created real community among your group of friends is when you get a phone call – or worse, hear the doorbell ring – and realize your friends are going to see your not-ready-for-company house, and you don’t panic. (Sure, you might shove a few things in the hall closet, but that’s normal.)

Or you might think that true community is clearly happening when you get together with friends and their families, and throughout the evening you realize someone else is feeding your child while you’re wiping her kid’s nose and your friend just hollered at your husband for his off-color joke while her husband just asked you for the recipe for the brownies in the kitchen.

Then again, maybe you’ve recognized community when you find yourself needing help – a spare tire, a last-minute babysitter, a couch to crash on halfway through your road trip – and you know exactly who to call. And you don’t even feel guilty or nervous about asking.

Or maybe it’s when you find yourself hugging your friend’s parents at the birthday party without that awkward I-don’t-really-know-you-but-I’m-hugging-you feeling, texting her just to say you’re thinking of her, opening drawers and looking for the salad tongs instead of asking where they are, confessing your deepest secrets and listening to hers, laughing until you cry over remember-when stories and inside jokes, or spending the night debating everything from the best season of The Office to theology and politics to the appropriate way to wear skinny jeans.

But for me, community – true, authentic, in-your-face-and-your-heart community – has never been more apparent than the night I shared with my friends that I had a bad case of poison ivy. (Yes. Again.) And their response? It was not sympathetic murmurs and gentle hugs, nor was it offers of home remedies or their own poison whatever survival stories. No, ma’am. My friends, my people, my community LAUGHED AT ME.

Oh yes! They laughed. And they mocked. And they said things like, “Really? What kind of, ahem, extracurricular activities were you doing at the church picnic to get poison ivy THERE?”

And as I sat there with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard, I thought, “Yes. This is community. This comfortable like my stretchy pajama pants, familiar as my own reflection, laugh at you and with you, call you out on your crazy and hug you through it family – this is community.”

Now it’s time for the $64,000 question . . .

Have YOU found community? How did you know when you’d found it?"

Do you think that one of the first ‘requirements’ of being ‘in community’ is to be ‘real’? What do we risk by being real? What do we gain?

Bonnie Gray (the Faith Barista http://www.faithbarista.com) said:

The parts of me I usually like to hide are the very parts where God is working through my life and my story.”

Jesus Himself needed community. Jesus confided in three confidantes (Peter, James, and John) as He broke down in His darkest night in Gethsemane. The need to relate is part of our humanity and spirituality.

8 Ways

I’m still learning this come-out-of-hiding journey, but I’d like to share 8 ways I encouraged myself to come out of hiding and open myself up to community. I hope it gives you comfort knowing you are not alone and encourage you to know you can do it, too.

1. Don’t wait until you’re all better before you reach out to find a friend.

Reach out now, while you’re broken — and find the people who can truly be your friend. Now is the time to get the support you need.

In some cases, I asked for specific help or advice. For others, I just wanted the support. This is the jist of what I’ve said, “I’m going through a hard time right now. I’d like to confide in you about it, so I’m not alone in it. It’s not something I need solved. But, to make this journey, I need to know someone knows and someone cares. ”

This helps communicate to the other person I needed the safety rather than advice or problem solving (unless that is what you need). Because when you are overwhelmed, it’s important to have the safety to feel and talk things through.

2. Assume there will be “sunk costs” in this investment in community.

I’m just keeping it real friends. There are people who have not walked this journey of transparency. Difficult emotions make them feel uncomfortable with their own anxieties and it can stress them out. So, don’t take it personally if you try to make a connection and the conversation doesn’t work out. Understand this person isn’t the right match for this season of your journey.

Early on, I had confided to someone who said my anxieties were caused by my failure to trust God — which then plummeted me into a tailspin of discouragement. But, I kept reaching out until I found someone who could encourage me. It turns out I found great comfort in a friend I’d known for a decade, who I never knew she experienced panic attacks — until after I confided in her.

3. View opening up as an act of trust in God rather than a test of someone’s acceptance of you.

Finding a friend is another way of trusting God in the journey. You’re going to need someone to walk this path with you. When Jesus sent out the disciples out in ministry, He sent them two by two. The new commandment Jesus gives us is to, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

This love commandment is reciprocal, too. Jesus wants you to receive love and He will send someone to love you on His behalf. Seek and we shall find.

4. Create a list of people to confide in. Start with the most compassionate person you know and slowly challenge yourself to move down your list — as you progress further along your journey — adjusting how much you share with your comfort level.

Many of you belong to a lot of wonderful support communities (like Celebrate Recovery, AA, …), so please share them with us in the comments.

For me, here is the list I moved down. Your list will vary, so custom-fit per your need and circumstance:

1. My best friend. My husband.

2. The most compassionate person who has known me the longest.

3. The most compassionate person who I confided in during the last crisis.

4. The pastor who mentored me.

5. The pastor who married me and Eric.

6. The pastor of my new church. (I was definitely stepping out on a limb at this point (how would he view me?). But, our conversation helped confirm that authenticity was valued in this faith community.)

7. A few closest girlfriends.

8. A Christian counselor/therapist (This was the first time I tried this. It’s hard to find the right one! Another post for another day…)

9. A few colleagues.

10. A new friend I met at my new church.

11. Readers on my blog.

5. Say no — and share honestly why you can’t.

This one is hard for me, especially if I feel like I should do something or be somewhere. I feel if I don’t say yes, I’ve let other people down or I feel guilty because I’ve failed in some way.

One way of being open in community is honestly letting others into our world: our needs, our limitations — as well as our passion, what we value and what our current priorities are, even if they differ from others.

6. Say yes — and share honestly where you’re at.

There are times God plops a wonderful opportunity in our laps — to invite us to try something new, something we really want to attempt — but are lacking confidence to commit. Give yourself permission to say yes — and share honestly the questions or hesitations you have.

You will be able to find others who identify with you — gain a friend and encourage each other through these conversations.

7. Ask others about their stories. Really listen and be present.

This is a beautiful part of community that never fails to melt my heart when I’m frozen in isolation. When we take interest in others’ stories, we give them permission to invite us to the tender places. We offer others acceptance — and we receive the gift of transparency. We gain courage to be present with others and open up about our own journey in return.

8. Choose to believe God is at work in your story. He’s living in you to come alongside others to live theirs.

Last, but not least, coming out of hiding is really a question of faith. If Jesus was working in me when life was good, was He still at work in me when life feels bad? Opening up to others when we are in the middle of our stories invites others to join us on the journey.

Because the truth is, there will always be parts of us God is loving us back to life.

We are all living stories being written.

We can help encourage each other while the ink is still drying.

We don’t have to reject ourselves or each other.

We can step out in the open and speak fully.

We can embrace the beautiful real stories we are living, instead of hiding behind the lonely stories we wish we were living."

“Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake,
which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us.
While we’re going through the worst,
you’re getting in on the best!”
2 Cor. 4:7-12 (The Message)

Holley Gerth writes: "much of community is just about showing up.

Showing up when we don’t know what to say.

Showing up when we don’t know what to do.

Showing up when all we’ve got to offer is Starbucks and a smile.

We try to make community more complicated than it needs to be. But really all it means is being there. Not hiding. Not believing the lie that someone else could do it better. Not even waiting for someone to reach out to us. It’s just making ourselves available. Being willing to be messy–whether it’s our hair or our hearts.

Someone needs you today. Just as you are.

And maybe all you’ve got to touch a life is just show up.
Today, tomorrow, the next time the unexpected text comes.

You’ve got more to offer than you realize. And in community, sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest difference.

How are you showing up for someone else? How has someone else showed up for you?"

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