Community and I have had some issues. It hasn’t always been a give-and-take thing but more of a push-and-pull relationship. I spent a good amount of time (read: years) basically distrusting anyone who appeared to give any sort of interest in being my friend.
I had been burned and I was so certain that if I didn’t try again, I wouldn’t get burnt again.
Maybe that’s true. But it’s equally true that closing yourself off and pushing out any opportunity of love is lonely.
To the same extent that you allow yourself to feel joy, you also allow yourself to feel sadness. I wanted no sadness and in closing myself off to the possibility of endings and hurts and betrayals, I also closed myself off to joy. I was scared and scarred and although lonely, I found myself resigned to the fact that This Is Just How It Will Always Be.
But God. Thank goodness, but God.
The scars that tell the story of broken community also tell the story of my healing. Years later I still find it funny that He would choose to use community to heal me and to show me His goodness.
It would be really handy and convenient – although perhaps also obnoxious – if some sort of siren went off inside alerting you each time you’ve met one of your people. That hasn’t happened for me. But I’ve said it so many times and it’s true when it comes to hurt places, too.
In all ways, in all things, at all times, He is faithful.
That’s how you know your true friends: you hear their laughter and look into their eyes, and it feels like coming home.
Melanie Shankle, Nobody’s Cuter Than You
He brought me my people. The ones I can touch and meet up with during the week and the ones on the other side of the screen. And then He gave me the miracle I spent four years praying for. He did the impossible.
It seems that the questions “do you know what you’ll do? do you know where you’ll be? do you have any plans?” find their way into every conversation I have now. I know a lot is about to change. I know there are a lot of unknowns. And I know I want to keep on calling Birmingham home. Because home is where my people are and most of them will be right here. It isn’t about the place for me – it’s about the people. If you could pick them all up and transplant everyone to Nebraska or Alaska or Ireland (yes, please) I’d be all for it.
But that isn’t about to happen and so I’d like to introduce you to two of them. They don’t know I’m doing this (obviously. just look at the pictures. welcome to *real* life, blog peeps.) and I’m not about to include names because, well, no. But they’ll know.
So this is for them. And it’s also for you, the one reading. Because sometimes community plain hurts. Sometimes we’d much rather build walls than bridges. But I need you to force your eyes to read this slowly:
Jesus is enough. Always. But He is also Healer, Comforter, and all-knowing. He sees your hurts and your desire to be known and loved. Had you asked six years ago if this sort of friendship could exist, the girl writing these words would have emphatically responded NO! But she would have been so wrong. He created community. In fact, He is community. So hold onto Jesus and hold onto His promises. Your story isn’t over.
Day in. Day out. She’s the girl right by my side and my word, am I thankful for it. We’re the same in all the ways that matter, yet opposites, too. She’s loud where I’m quiet, she gets things done while I sit and talk. One of the biggest lessons God has taught me in knowing her is that neither way of living and loving is better or worse; they are both needed, necessary, and some how they work together real well. She’s seen my heart and loves me still. She’s taught me safety in friendship, so much so that I can simply say “I’m hurting” and she stops to pray over me. If I ever tried to stop writing here – if I ever said I was done with the ministry of words – she would be the very first to get in my face and talk me down off the ledge. We may have different calls of ministry but she would never, ever settle for me doing anything other than what God has given me to do. She’s so much of what I hope I end up becoming.
I have no earthly recollection of how we met but she does and that’s hashtag embarrassing. But it also says a whole lot about who she is as a person – kind, thoughtful, others-focused. She’s the most generous, faithful person I know. But she’s also witty and adventurous. This girl has carried me to Jesus more than I’ll ever know and it isn’t a stretch to say she has fought the darkness for me and helped me look for the Light. I started finding my way back to community before I met her… but the truth is so much of who I am today and so much of why I love community so deep is because I know her. She doesn’t run, she doesn’t back down, and she loves so deep it blows me away. She has challenged the lies that seemed so real until Truth became so clear. She fights for the ones she loves and she does so in a gentle, quiet, never-giving-up way.
This post was inspired by two recent reads on community and friendship, and so it seemed fitting to introduce you to two of my people. I am so thankful for the many He has given me, and am honored to let you “meet” these two today. I would not be who I am without them in my life.
Lean On Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable, and Consistent Community is Anne Marie Miller’s newest book. The title says it best – this book is Anne’s story of finding community that is real and honest and continues to show up even when it isn’t easy or convenient. To be honest, the book is not what I expected – yet I couldn’t stop myself from finishing it. I simply had to know the rest of her story. If you have wounds from community or friendship, this book is a good source of encouragement that although community may wound, it sure does heal.
I can’t help myself, I just want to be Melanie Shankle’s best friend. She’s struck the perfect combination of humor and emotion in her newest book, Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship. Just like her other books, somehow you’ll read the stories and feel that you were there for all of them. You cry for her friends, you laugh over their embarrassing moments, and you find yourself loving your own people just a little bit deeper. Without question it is one of my favorite books on friendship.
I received both books in exchange for my honest opinion. BookLook kindly sent Lean On Me my way and Tyndale Bloggers was so gracious to work with me and send me a copy of Nobody’s Cuter than You even when it appeared copies were gone. Thanks to both companies for always kindly sending books to my mailbox.
Psst, do y’all know about Tyndale Rewards? If you haven’t signed up yet, click on over here and sign up for free. You’ll receive books or other gifts for all of zero cents. If you use this link, you’ll automatically get 25 points to use toward whatever book you choose.
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