I was born in the Bronx but grew up in Queens, NY, where I didn't know many of my neighbors. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to meet them or be in relationship with them, but the norm on my block was not to engage. As I entered the workforce and rode the A train, the people I did pass by on a daily basis might give a hesitant nod letting me know that was as far as they were willing to go, socially…Community seemed to be a four-letter word!
Once I came to be in relationship with Jesus, married, and moved to New Jersey, my husband and I joined a church that emphasized uniting people to God and people to people . They promoted Life Groups, which are small groups that met twice a month in the homes of volunteer leaders for worship, prayer, fellowship, and Bible discussion. For the first time, we realized that God wanted us to be part of community. Even though this had become our desire, I was a little hesitant.
The Bible says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Yet I had reservations…
What was community supposed to look like?
Who were we going to meet?
Would we fit in?
I realized that I was struggling with fear of rejection. This had deep roots. I grew up knowing my father hadn’t wanted more children when my mother was pregnant with me. And I was raised feeling like in order to be accepted and valued by my dad, I had to perform (clean, work at an early age, etc). My childhood, together with several other experiences, led me to build up attitudes and behaviors to avoid rejection…
BUT, God didn’t give me a spirit of fear (and I’m a New Yorker who doesn’t like to be pushed around), so I needed to muster up some courage!
I chose to believe and trust God with my fear, so we took the first step of obedience by signing up to attend a small group. During that first year, we learned how to knit our lives together with others by sharing our life experiences, a meal, and prayer. After a while, community started to feel natural and I started to look forward to spending time with these precious people while growing in my relationship with God.
Fast forward eight years, even though we are no longer part of that congregation, we are still in relationship with several of the people we met in that small group, and I am so thankful for that.
Community rarely happens on its own. Relationship MUST be intentional. It may take facing your fears, getting over your past, and/or taking risks, but take the first step by getting involved through a local church, prayer group, book club, or Bible study today. We were made for community.
Won’t you join me in experiencing community and new relationships in this season of your life? You won’t regret it!