Radical Community

As I get older, I continue to be awed by God and his creation.  I guess I seem to notice the small things more and more- the birds carrying a beautiful song, the sweet goodness of summer blackberries and even just the warmth of the sun as I step out of the shade. 

But, nothing seems to me as loving as the gift of beautiful words spoken, sweet fellowship with another or the warmth of a hug when a day seems dim.  The love of a person is a gift from God- one of His greatest gifts.  He designed us to be together- in family and in friendships- for our lifting up and to lift Him up, as His body…

But, so often I find myself leaning into others for my value and happiness.  I may feel wonderful when I’ve had a connecting conversation with a friend or almost devastated when I sense rejection.  God did make all of us for intimacy and connections, fellowship and community- but oh how often we weigh those connections with higher value than God intended.  “Hold them loosely” the Lord has been saying to me.  “I did not design community to meet your needs.  I designed community to point you to me.”

When my heart is not found wanting and I am feeling completely satisfied in Him, everybody in my life has their rightful place.  They are fallen in the image of man and beautiful in the image of God.  Their failings are expected, their achievements can be celebrated and God’s gift of community can be treasured.  Competition is unnecessary- we’re all on the same team.

True freedom to be inviting towards one another comes in seeing each other with God’s eyes.  With those eyes, we can reach out to love instead of grasping for love ourselves.  With those eyes, our expectations are filled with grace.  His eyes orient me towards Him and away from myself and therefore towards His children.  The mess, the human game, the fighting for my place can all be put to rest.  As Solomon says, it is all meaningless.  Let’s not buy into it and instead ask God for His eyes- to see through the fog and see the beautiful scene beyond.

Let us not make community our God but let God be over our community.

What could it look like if we, as women, could radicalize what the face of female fellowship looks like in the Christian church- to not be a photocopy of the world and its relationships- just with airbrushed words and deeds, but to look beyond ourselves, beyond our needs and look out?

We are validated by our Lord, His stamp is upon us and nothing else matters. Inviting comes with a  willingness to uncover oneself and share oneself however God leads—it is stepping forward towards another, even with the potential to loose.  We have to risk what people will think if we open up and show who we really are- risking judgment, risking exposure…But, being willing to do so because God has deemed us worthy.  God has called us beautiful.  God has forgiven the ugly.  We can safely risk because of how He risked Himself for us.  Instead of seeking to protect ourselves- our time, our energy and even our hearts, we can step out and share ourselves, because He shared Himself.  God has already promised that He’s doing that for me.  I self protect so often before I have even listened to what He wants of me.  I often wonder where I have missed out in the joy of sharing myself with another.

There is ultimate protection in the covenantal covering of His wings.  We are His.  Because of this—and only this—we have the freedom to give ourselves away.

I challenge myself and you to step out and risk this week- to lean in to the pain of another or give time away where it doesn’t seem to be plentiful- to focus not on ourselves and what community brings us but on others and what we can bring to them.

 – Katherine Gouch, Downtown