Created for Community

I need you. And you need me. We were created to live in community, to be a family.

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Yet to those of us who grow up in the western world, truly living community does not come easy. Lesser still, to those like myself who were raised in America, where individualism and independence are paramount and needing others is more often seen as a sign of weakness than of valor.

My mother often tells the story of a five-year-old Maureen, on her first day of Kindergarten. The school bus stop was a few houses down, at the end of our road, and as she prepared to walk me there on this momentous occasion, I turned to her and said, “I can walk there myself”. What, I wonder, stirred me to act so “heroically” at this tender age? To feel the need NOT to need others, not to embrace the support and kindness of a loving mother, well-seasoned in the art of seeing children off to school? Why did I insist on finding the strength and courage required for that moment within myself? Had I been found lacking, I dare say I would not have admitted it.

DSC00204Fiercely independent. Wildly individualistic. Completely self-sufficient. How often have we worn these titles as if they were glimmering medals testifying to our completeness, to our value to those around us, because we do not need and we will take nothing from them? And how frequently have we sat broken and alone because of the very walls we’ve erected with our own self-sufficiency, our pride, our sad distortion of an “I can do all things” mentality?

Learning to live community, to freely extend myself to others while also admitting and welcoming my need for them in my life has been an arduously wonderful, gloriously challenging journey. Actually, the “freely extending myself” part has proven to be the less laborious side of the equation: I’ve always had a keen sensitivity to the needs of others and loved reaching out and helping however I could. The “admitting and welcoming my need for others” part is where the treacherous trek begins. For therein lies vulnerability.

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Photos by Katrina Quinn

As I shared in a previous post entitled I am healed, I began to suffer from fibromyalgia 23 years ago, at the age of 29. At the time, Denny and I were living in beautiful Mantua, Italy, and we had two young daughters, ages two and three. My husband organized tours for bands and was frequently away, sometimes for a couple weeks at a time. So when I started experiencing exhaustion, chronic pain, daily headaches and debilitating fatigue, caring for two little ones and a household entirely on my own and with no family nearby became nearly impossible. I say “nearly” because I surely gave it a good go for quite some time. Friends, neighbors and our church family offered to help but unless I saw that giving me a hand was convenient for them or of no great consequence, I would graciously refuse. I COULD DO THIS, after all. And I WOULD. I WAS GOING TO BEAT THIS THING!

Somewhere along the road to completely unraveling from pushing myself to the absolute limit, I finally began to give heed to what God was trying to speak to me through the voices of some of my friends…

“I see you need help, I want so much to help you – but if you don’t tell me HOW I can help and let me in, I feel incapacitated.”

“You know how much you love to help and serve people and what a great blessings that is for you? When you refuse help from others, you’re denying them that same joy, that blessing of giving even when it does require sacrifice!”

DSC00569Slowly, fearfully and ever-so-hesitantly, I began to open that door and to allow others inside. Not only when I had it all together and could serve a delicious meal, but also when I was broken, faltering and insecure. And as you may have already discovered if you’ve been on this same journey, the wholeness of others (as broken as they themselves may be) serves to heal our brokenness. A friend’s steadfast faith delivered at the right moment provides a foundation for our faltering selves to stand upon. The safe place of a shoulder where we can cry, an ear carefully listening, a tender embrace, a prayer spoken on our behalf when words fail us… all of this builds a balmy fortress where our cold insecurity can begin to melt.

Each one of us bears a unique fingerprint, gifted to us by our amazing Father: a beautiful blend of character traits, capabilities, talents and idiosyncrasies. Some of what makes you who you are, completes who I am… and I in turn bring greater balance to you with some of the qualities that make me, me. I need you. I truly do. And when we cherish and sharpen one another, our lives are all the richer.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts,
but all its many parts form one body,
so it is with Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body
whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free
and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so the body is not made up of
one part
but of many.
Now if the foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,”
it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
And if the ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,”
it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye,
where would the sense of hearing be?
If the whole body were an ear,
where would the sense of smell be?
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body,
every one of them,
just as he wanted them to be.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
As it is,
there are many parts,
but one body.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-20

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6 thoughts on “Created for Community

  1. Beautifully written, I recently went through a time where I was laid up with a broken ankle and wrist at the same time. I was still able to work although at a slower pace with my wrist in a cast. I was not able to drive and had to depend on family and friends to get me to and from work each day, at first it was so hard to ask, I kept feeling like I was putting them out. Over time I realized there were many waiting in the wings to help and that the short drive was a time to see a friend and catch up and became a real blessing. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement and for sharing from your own life, Linda! It seems you and David (who also commented) have had much the same experience… and we really are so enriched by one another’s stories, which also create a beautiful thread of community. So often, an illness, an injury or a tragedy – despite the pain and loss it brings – also serves to make way for a precious opportunity to just be with others, and even get to know someone we’d barely made time for previously.

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  2. Right now, with one useless arm, I’m left with no choice other than to rest and to depend on the help of others. The wait has been tedious. At the same time, being taken care of is a very humbling experience for someone so active and independent like me. I feel much closer to my mom now than I had felt for many years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So precious, David. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share your experience (so similar to Linda’s in her comment) – even typing with one arm! I love seeing how unexpected beauty is borne from the ashes of brokenness, as with your relationship with your mom. The waiting can be tedious – yes. But what if this time of rest, of using only one arm were NOT actually a period of waiting to return to your “former self” but rather a one of discovering new hues of who you really are? How might that perspective influence the outcome and the very journey itself? Warm hugs, my friend.

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  3. Preparing to deal with the Saul/Paul passage this week in church and realising that he needed community to heal from all his violence. We all need community to heal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, so true. And so often we haven’t even got a clue as to how beautifully our own lives, our own experience and our “just being” can impact, heal, challenge and encourage those around us. What a gift community is! Blessings on you and your words as you prepare…

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