Disclaimer: I wrote this sometime in the summer of 2015, so if you were at the get togethers mentioned or watched the scope I reference, you know they didn’t take place this summer.
I prayed before I wrote this because I have the tendency to edit as I write. I also chose to write it in a journal before posting it. Here’s the prayer I wrote out.
Lord, clear my mind so I can have a conversation with You. I want to let go of all pretense – to give up on sounding clever or relate-able. I don’t want community based on smoke and mirrors. I just want to share my heart. My naked and broken heart.
I’ve been thinking about friendship and community a lot this year. Questions like “Why don’t I ever hangout with my closest friends?” and “Why does my community seem to all be virtual?” dominate my thoughts on the topic. I started to cling to the notion that my life would be so much richer if I got to spend time with my besties or meet up with members of my tribe for coffee. Okay, not really. We’d meet up for smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe since God made me naturally caffeinated. I even half convinced myself that in lieu of getting to meet up with my besties or my tribe that I need to attend a conference or retreat every three months or so. You know, for spiritual maintenance. More like a mountain high experience fix.
I was at one such retreat/conference in June when I told Brooke, the woman sitting to my right, “I wish I could have this at home. I wish I could have this all the time.” I was referring to the intimacy, transparency, and grace that filled the room. I went on to tell her that although I get along well with the women of my church, I didn’t have this. She shared that she could relate.
Full disclosure – Totally unsure of what the Celebrate Motherhood Retreat was going to be like and not knowing anyone in the Happy Mommy Box community, I attended the pre-retreat dinner so I would be acquainted with someone, anyone, the day of the retreat. Yep, I drove almost an hour and a half so I would feel more part of the day of the event. That, and I was hoping to meet Jess Connolly who I’ve been following on Instagram since before she moved back to South Carolina. It was a little awkward that most everyone was familiar with each other through the Happy Mommy community and I had never even heard of the company before my friend tagged me in a comment for one of their posts. But by the end of our post-dinner trip to Marble Slab I felt like we’d all been meeting up like this regularly. And the next day, I totally scoped out the room and looked for someone from the dinner to sit near.
Just a few days after that amazing weekend, I caught Angela and Catherine of REFIT® Revolution on Periscope. They were in a Chick Fil A line with two of Angela’s daughters in the back seat. They were just doing life together and invited us to take a peek into that every day experience. Towards the end of the broadcast Angela said that she doesn’t have friends that she does everything with. And she was clearly disappointed by that.
So it got me thinking about community again and why I feel like I’m missing something. Something about friendship and community that holds the key to contentment. Something I assumed everyone had in their own friendships and communities but I didn’t have. But the confessions of Brooke and Angela had me rethinking all that.
I don’t blog much (I’m totally tempted to add “anymore” but let’s be honest, I’ve always been a sporadic blogger) but I remember writing something along the lines of “God calls us to be in community. First with Him and the with others.” I don’t know, maybe it’s in one of the many posts sitting in my draft folder. Anyway, God totally said those exact words back to me and then said “You’re glossing over that first part. That’s the problem.” What? “I spend time with you every day.” Silence. “I even took prayer walks after my quiet time for a couple of weeks.” I felt like a kid trying to convince her parents that she deserved a raise in her allowance because she was doing such an awesome job with her chores. Ugh.
That’s when the conviction set in. “That’s hoops and legalism. I want you. I want your heart.” I had to admit that a lot of my quiet time was about studying and not about spending time before a holy God. I also had to confess that I would often enter my quiet time hoping that God would give me a Tweetable nugget of wisdom or the perfect Instagram quote.
None of that has to do with communing with God. I’d love to say “I get that now,” but I knew that already. The thing is my heart is bent towards legalism and works. I can sit here and blame the denomination I grew up in, but it’s more universal than me or a single denomination. Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been trying to earn or manipulate our way back into God’s good graces. To work our way to good enough.
Before I could even try to devise a new and improved approach to quiet time, God whispered softly to me, “You’re looking to community to give you something that only I can give you.” I can’t quite describe how I felt as that truth sank in, but it was like a mixture of relief and disappointment. I was grateful to know that there as a reason that although I felt full when I left a retreat or conference that the feeling didn’t last long. I knew part of the reason was that while a mountain top experience is meant to sustain me through the valleys, I can’t live up there. Now God was showing me there was more to it than that.
The disappointment crept in when I realized that the solution was to do something I can’t really “do”. I’m learning that communion with God isn’t’ about doing something, it’s about being something. Humble. Surrendered. Vulnerable. Willing. As much as I want to be in the Lord’s presence and hear from Him, all that has me feeling pretty fearful. And I’ve gotta tell you that my initial reaction isn’t to press into that fear, but to jump online and find a group of women who are in the same boat so we can go through this together. But I know that isn’t what God is calling me to do. I also know that He isn’t asking me to walk this out alone, either.
During the spring, on many of my post-quiet time morning walks I mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit kept saying “Let’s do this”. At first I thought He was pumping me up for the walk. It was before the time change and it was scary dark out still, so I totally appreciated the motivation. But as the weeks passed and He kept saying it I saw that it was more than a motivation to walk. It was an invitation. An invitation to what exactly, I’m not sure. But I’m certain that God knows my heart. He knows how I earnestly long to be in community with Him and others. I trust that whatever “this” is that He’s inviting me to do with Him will equip me live the life He calls me to live.