In February I invited you to join me at the (in)RL Meet Up. Except unlike most of the events I talk about; you didn’t have to live in Grand Rapids to experience it. In a truly brilliant use of social media, there were hundreds of meet ups all over the world and women gathered in their own towns to connect with other women in real life while sharing the same purpose and hearing the same message.
The section that hit me the hardest was the one about community. What is it? Where do you find it? Why is it necessary? I desperately needed to know. I needed to heal some hurts so I could forgive and move on. I needed to learn how to know it when I saw it, and turn away when it looked like the real thing; but wasn’t.
I realized that I had made the mistake of confusing community with groups. Sometimes groups are easy to join; you just sign up. Sometimes they are very difficult to join and require a lot of time and energy. Sometimes they require you to compromise your principles, or to be quiet when you should be speaking up; or to be noisy when you should be quiet. Pin me! Stumble me! Tweet me! MAKE NOISE. PROCLAIM MY AWESOMENESS.
Are they all really worthy of such amplification? Am I bothering to write words worthy of it?
I was so excited to attend Blissdom last year, but came home disappointed. I did not find the community everyone else seemed to find there. So, I presumed that my community was the city I lived in or some of the non-profits I worked with, but later learned that my love was unrequited. And that hurt, a lot.
But groups are not community. And conferences are not community. And towns are not community.
I stand off to the sides much more than I should at church and at my kids’ school. I don’t participate in the local blogger meet ups very often. I thought that would be my community, and it isn’t. It isn’t a community any more than a random gathering of people who happen to wear blue shirts or like flowers or are named Bob is community.
And what keeps me from fully engaging? What keeps me on the sidelines?
Shame. Self-protection. An unwillingness to be vulnerable.
I am not a big enough blogger to hang out with at conferences. My husband doesn’t come to church with me so we are not a good enough family. We are one of the poorest families in this school and also, I am annoying with my persistent requests for my son’s needs to be met.
And it’s childish, and selfish. I could grow so much and have so much to offer, but I hold it back. I need to do the hard work of finding community within those groups. There are people at conferences and church and at school and in the blogger group (and some of them are even the same people) that I could build a community with, but I don’t because I don’t think I can do it.
But for a few hours, I quieted my mind and just listened. And God said, for the millionth time,
You are enough.
And that’s what we call a conviction, ladies and gentlemen. Like a criminal who has been found guilty; I know I had better change my ways or be thrown back into the prison that Ann Voskamp talked about. The things we use protect ourselves with are the things that keep us alone. I am a repeat offender, so I know it is true.
I am terrified and exhilarated, but I am changed. I am enough.
And here is the Good News I get to share with you today; the noise I should be making:
So are you.