Life as a pastor's wife can be lonely. Surrounded by many; known by few. Attempting to fly under the radar, pick up slack behind the scenes, and be everything to everyone, can create an invisible barrier between yourself and other women.
Authenticity is not always encouraged among those in church leadership. This long-lasting isolationism almost convinced me that your help is not necessary anyway.
I've got things all figured out, right? I probably don't need you, and admitting that I do might mean that I'm weak? Or useless? Or not fulfilling my purposes for God correctly?
The term "community" was not one I had heard until I moved back to Michigan. It sounded like an awkward, feel-good group in which you let people know everything about you and admit that you're incapable of walking with God on your own. Bleh. Talk honestly about your walk with God? In front of other people? Ugh. Grappling transparently with life issues whilst upholding a facade of perfection was going to be difficult for me.
Is all of this "community" torture really worth it? Can't I just do life with God and call it good?
I know what you're thinking...come on Amy...didn't you learn anything when you got divorced? Didn't you realize back then that you wouldn't have survived without an entire posse of people around you insulating you from the blows of grief? Didn't you come to understand that you cannot do life alone?
Yep. I did realize all of those things...but that was THEN.
Back when I was writhing on the floor in so much emotional pain that I couldn't breathe through the sobs.
Back when I could barely get dressed. Drive to work. Teach my students. Go home. Repeat writhing on the floor.
Back when nothing made sense anymore and nothing was good but God. When all I could do was breathe God's life-giving breaths and literally count each one going in and out, in and out.
Back when I barely felt alive anymore- that's when community felt necessary to me. Breathing in the spiritual fumes of wiser women gave me moment-to-moment oxygen as I struggled to get back on to my own life-supports.
As I tend to slide back into my formerly isolated ways, I must remind myself how powerful my community truly is. How essential. How vital to my growth are these women I call my "community".
Why do I need them?
1. They SEE me: Not the "me" that I want them to see. Not the "me" who has it all together. They see the "me" who doesn't have it all figured out. The Amy who has to work hard to accept her true identity in Christ. To push away bitterness and regret every day. The Amy that has to walk on- in spite of broken dreams and a semi-broken heart. That's the Amy that shows up in the circle. The girl who knows God is good because I come to this group with heart-on-sleeve every single time and THAT'S OKAY.
2. They GUIDE me: Even when I think I'm the smartest girl around, I learn something every single time. My girls don't just preach it- they live it. They grapple with God in ways that help me see the worthiness of the wrestling match. The back and forth with God. The way He grows us to bring a total dependence on Him and not us. These brave women guide me through their contemplations in a way that leads me back to His side. Every. Single. Time.
3. This is where we say, "ME TOO": They speak. I nod enthusiastically. Passionate words come out of their mouths and they look around the circle with expectant, wide eyes. Their body language screams, "Have you ever experienced this?" Yes. We have! ME TOO! Has anyone ever said to you, "You're such a nice girl, why are you still single?" Yep. "Has anyone ever told you that maybe you're just too picky when it comes to dating?" Yep. Affirmation gives the hope that maybe I'm not all alone in this. Just maybe someone else experiences the things that I do. This is a place for "me too" exclamations and big sighs of relief.
The book of Hebrews was written to encourage believers who may have been somewhat immature. (Click here to read my previous post Time to Grow Up: Beyond Bible Reading for more on this concept.) The writer of Hebrews admonishes them to build up their basic knowledge of God in order to eat the meat that they should be prepared for by now. Another sign of the immature believers is found in this passage:
Hebrews 10:24- And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
These growing believers had to be reminded not to neglect meeting together to "stir up one another to love and good works". When we fail to see the value of meeting together in community for the purpose of stirring one another up in love, we must begin to wonder if we are maturing in our faith or returning to our former state of sin and isolation? Are we hiding? Are we allowing God's people to impact our hearts and for me to impact them? Do we see how valuable this is?
Isolation is a choice.
Building a community that changes us is also a choice. A much harder choice. A choice that doesn't come easy, but one that is worth it in so many, many ways. Make the time. Take the risk. You need them, and they need you friend!
How do you choose community?
What does community look like for you?
When was the last time you examined God's command to meet together for the building up of love and good works found in Hebrews 10?
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook! Thank you for following this series on Spiritual Growth! Comment below if you have any ideas for what I should do next...