“Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. In community we say: ‘Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, up and downs – but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.” Excerpt from “Can You Drink the Cup?” by Henri Nouwen
Have you ever sat in church surrounded by people but feeling completely alone? I know I have. There have been plenty of times when I’ve looked around and realized that the people I fellowship with and worship with have no idea who I really am or what I’m truly struggling with. The truth is that as I mature emotionally and spiritually as a person, God is continually in the process of revealing to me who I really am and who He’s created me to be.
It’s kind of crazy for me to think that anyone else should really know me when I’ve spent years guarding my heart from being exposed. Isn’t that the definition of insanity “…doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?” An important part of growing in maturity in my own life has been learning how to live authentically and with integrity about where I’m truly at. It is hard and it can be messy. And I don’t mean to suggest that it’s possible to be that way with everyone.
So how do you find yourself in community like the the community that Nouwen described? I think it requires the courage to share your heart with the people you love. Nouwen goes on to say this:
“When we dare to speak from the depth of our heart to the friends God gives us, we will gradually find freedom within us and new courage to live our own sorrows and joys to the full. When we truly believe that we have nothing to hide from God, we need to have people around who represent God for us and to whom we can reveal ourselves with complete trust. Nothing will give us so much strength as being fully known and fully loved by fellow human beings in the Name of God.”
Do these kind of friendships happen overnight and without any work at all? Probably not, wouldn’t it be nice if they did! I have found however, that as I work at allowing my friends and loved ones really know me I have had far more opportunities to build relationships with other people on a much deeper level because my heart is open to embracing others, brokenness and all, as I’ve been embraced. Living authentically has opened the doors to connections and friendships that I never expected:) Isn’t God great that way?
I think that Nouwen’s definition of community is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read:
“Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope.”
So here’s my question….do you have anyone in your life that you purposefully share your joys and sorrows with? If you don’t, what’s preventing you from having the courage to be authentic?
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