Finding the Courage To Find Community

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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.

inrl Finding the Courage To Find Community

And here is the Good News I get to share with you today; the noise I should be making:

So are you.

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 The Message
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Comments

  1. Katie says:

    oh, do I love this! i was really convicted by the statement that we sometimes hide in our busyiness as an excuse not to be in community…and I realized that is just what I did (what I do). Also, I recognized that I am one of those people who tries so hard to make it look like I have it under control that I have no need for community, yet feel bitter when people treat me that way. That was in Friday’s keynote I think. So much to think about and yet, most importantly, to KNOW without a second guess that we are enough. Loved it! BTW, I also love you!

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    Big Binder Reply:

    Me too!! I am always “busy” and “ok”. Friday’s keynote was astounding to me. And I love you too Katie :)

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  2. Donielle says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this.

    I’m watching the community portion right now and getting hit with a ton of bricks. I’m used to my community hurting me. In highschool, in occupation, in blogging, in church. And I’ve put up a wall so that others see just the ‘public’ me. I don’t often tell my stories and share my pains. I haven’t had a best friend since I was 13.

    I’m so glad I spent today with you.

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    Big Binder Reply:

    I am going to start crying again. I’m glad I spent today with you too, Donielle.

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  3. Adventuremom says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated to show up at these meet ups because I am so new to this blogging world and wondered how I would fit in….. I feel like I have so much to learn and that everyone else is so much farther ahead. I really appreciate you reaching out to me by sharing about the blogging community in our city months ago. It was great to meet you and the other ladies in person today. Each one of you has so much to contribute. Thanks again for putting this together and letting us know about this event. It’s great to know we aren’t alone and that we all struggle with feelings that we aren’t enough….and that God says we are.

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    Big Binder Reply:

    Your name says it all – Adventure Mom!! I love that you went to a blogger meet up and then a zombie walk, it was great to meet you too – but don’t for one second think you don’t have a lot to contribute too! We are all in this together. There was something very special about our little meet up yesterday; I could literally feel something in me waking up or realizing a direction I have been scared to try but need to and you were RIGHT THERE when it happened; inRL Grand Rapids 2012 will always have a special place in my heart!

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  4. It’s so hard to break down that wall and let the real you come through in the things you love. I’m working on it right along with you.

    Even if we don’t end up as part of the same community, Let’s walk the path to our destinations together, shall we?

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    Big Binder Reply:

    You, my friend, have my trust and my respect. You are one of the people on the short list I was thinking of yesterday when I thought of who I want to find more people like to build community with.

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  5. Thank you for organizing the meet up yesterday. I’ve been in a constant state of thinking about community – both online and IRL – and just like you I find only a handful of people that I know I can fully trust, know that I can fully be myself with.

    I could write an entire blog post in your comments… but I’ll stop there. I’m so very thankful for you and everything you did to put this together yesterday. I’m proud to call you a friend and hope that we can enjoy community together again very soon.

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    Big Binder Reply:

    Me too, Julie, on all counts. I am thankful for you, proud to call you a friend, and am looking forward to having that margarita with you soon :)

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  6. DANG IT!! I REALLY needed this conference. I know there was a reason I missed it when God knew it was what I needed (mainly that I desperately needed to connect with my daughter), but DANG IT!!

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    Big Binder Reply:

    I’m so glad you guys had a good weekend! But I thought about you a lot, I would have loved it so much if you were there!

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  7. Sara says:

    How alike are our hearts, how we all ache for that real community that i believed was for every one else and just not for me. If the videos taught me anything it was that I’m not alone in my pain, other women ache for the friendship i desire but are scared to pursue.

    Your post has really struck a chord in my heart, i too am the women who husband doesn’t come to church, who struggle with daughters schooling. Will i ever be good enough.

    I am , we are. xxx

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    Big Binder Reply:

    We are :)

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  8. Rachel says:

    Thanks for your beautiful words…I was oh-so-thankful to meet you “in real life”, and to be able to nod in agreement with the challenges that were shooting off the screen. Isn’t it crazy that we all suffer alone only to find out that everyone else is feeling the same way? THanks for watering the seed of community on Saturday…and continuing it here! HOpe to connect with you again soon!

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    Big Binder Reply:

    It is crazy; and baffling. I was thrilled to meet you in person too, although I already felt like I had! I am thankful you were there, Rachel :)

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  9. In tears reading these powerful words, my friend. Wow. Incredible post! Wish I could’ve made the meet-up, but let’s not wait for another meet-up to meet-up. We ARE all busy, and sometimes the community you crave isn’t one that needs to meet IRL once/month or however often we think we’re “supposed to.” Because “supposed to” only leads to expectations & disappointments. That being said, let’s make face-time for each other soon!!

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    Big Binder Reply:

    Perfectly said! I’ve been thinking so much about those expectations lately and how downright crazy they are. Like I am only going to have community MY WAY on MY TIME at MY CONVENIENCE.

    And yes, I really, really want to have some IRL time with you!

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