In our small group last night, our leader asked “What is one thing that you are passionate about?” I love to hear about what other people are passionate about. I am intrigued by what makes people’s faces light up. I’m drawn to their words as they talk louder and faster. Their gestures get bigger and bigger as they discuss their passions.
Most people are quick to reply what they are passionate about, but when I follow up by asking “Why are you passionate about that?” Most people don’t have a quick response. It’s just part of who they are.
Just as God gave us a unique personality, he also gave us unique passions and gifts.
Knowing that our passions are from God should cause us to pause and stir up a few questions.
Why did God give you that passion? And what are you doing with it?
I’m asking myself those questions. What topics make my face light up when I talk about them? When I’m talking, what makes me speak faster and louder? What am I doing about those passions?
As I ask those questions, I decided that I was going to take a month or so to talk about a few things I’m passionate about.
I am passionate about community.
It doesn’t take a lot of convincing for people to understand the importance of community. But let me just give you a few of my favorite reasons.
1. Did you know church attendance (which we will translate to Christian community) increases your immune response, lowers your risk for heart disease and increases your lifespan?
2. Did you know Christian community reduces the likelihood that you will experience depression?
3. Did you know that we become like the people we spend time with? The more we hang out with people who are like Jesus, the more we become like him.
4. Did you know that we were created to live in community? Romans 12:4-5 says “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” This is just one verse of MANY that speaks to our need for community.
Even when people know the benefits of community and are aware that we are hardwired for relationships, why do so many people feel alone and disconnected?
We struggle to build community because we have to be intentional about it. It rarely happens to us, we have to make it happen.
For most of us growing up and even through college, community just kind of happened to us. Our shared space and experience created natural community. The older we get and the more busy we get, those natural spaces and experiences are no longer created for us, we have to create them for ourselves.
Bryan and I have built our lives around prioritizing community. One of the main reasons I have decided to only work part time so we have the emotional and physical capacity to build community. We know that if we were both working full time and raising two kids, getting through the day in one piece would feel like a success. One of us has to have the time and emotional margin to make plans, clean the house and prepare the food.
I know that not everyone has the choice to have one spouse stay home. Start small. Start with what is in front of you. Who do you work with that you wouldn’t mind getting to know? Who are your kids’ friend’s parents? Who do you sit next to at Hockey practice? Who lives next door to you? It’s hard to start a conversation with a complete stranger, it is a lot easier when you have something in common to talk about. If you’re struggling to find a person to pursue -join a club. Go to church. I’m serious, even if you aren’t religious, there are usually really great people at church. Join a gym and go at the same time everyday. I have met some of my best friends at the gym. Then after you have made a few connections…
Take the first step. This is hard. It is scary to be the initiator. But after you have chatted a few times, be brave, take the first step to get to know your new friends better. Sometimes people have a hard time getting coffee and finding things to talk about at first, that’s okay. Find something fun going on during the weekend and invite a family to join you. Ask the person you always sit next to at practice if they want to go for a walk while you wait for your kids. If a coworker mentions a movie they wanted to see, set up a time to see it together. You may not talk much at first, but shared experiences over time bring people to deeper levels of comfort and ease.
As you are pursuing new friendships, remember the rule of two. I have a “rule of 2” when it comes to getting together with new people. If I extend an invitation 2 times without a reply, I take the hint. Be intentional, not awkward. Generally speaking, people love to be invited, they are just too scared to be the one inviting.
We struggle to build community because we aren’t patient with the process.
My husband always tell me that I don’t enjoy the process, I just like the end result. That has been true in my friendships. I haven’t always wanted to do the hard work of building and developing friendships, I just want to be deep and comfortable with people-now. Today. Building new friendships is just like dating. It takes time to get to a deep comfort level. It takes shared experiences, awkward silences and mindless conversations-it’s takes time. And just as a warning, you will go on a few bad dates along the way. I have been positive that my new best friend was sitting in front of me. I then got to know them a bit and realized we were actually super different. That’s okay! Not everyone is going to be your new best friend, but you will never know unless you try.
We struggle to build community because it is scary and hard.
Being in community is vulnerable. To really commit yourself to others, you have to expose yourself; the good, the bad and the ugly. That is scary. All of us at one point or another have asked, “if they really knew me, would they still love me?” When I feel that way, it always helps me to step back and remember that the person across from me is asking those same questions.
I have learned over the last several years that most people are not as great as they seem, but to counter that point, most people are not as bad as they seem either. As you get more comfortable with people, you get to see different sides of them. Things will be said that you don’t agree with. Decisions will be made that make you cringe. People will disappoint you. You will disappoint people, I promise. Push through it. Have hard conversations. Seek to understand. Forgive. Ask questions, hold people accountable. Keep at it.
I mentioned earlier that Bryan and I have prioritized community. One way we have done that is choosing to have one of us work part time. That choice has come with a cost. We don’t have the nicest cars, in fact they both make weird noises. We don’t have really nice things and we don’t go on fancy vacations. Community doesn’t just cost us money. It costs time, energy and resources.
But you know what, we have really good friends. We have people in our corner. We have people that will go to bat for us. I have people in my life that fully know me, yet still truly love me. That in itself is worth any amount of money, energy or time.
What has been holding you back from building community? Are you waiting for it to happen to you? Does it feel too scary? Are you struggling to find time?
Identify your barrier, make a plan, take a step. It might be your first step or your tenth. Keep at it. Try and try again. When the excuses start coming your way, remember…
We were made for this.