Monday, October 15, 2012

I Need Community Or I'll Die

In the first week Robert probably saved my life. It was a preventative measure, and it was high school, but his impact on my life was enormous. He may not even know. It's amazing how we can change one another's lives so nonchalantly.

It went like this: I'd graduated 8th grade from St. Paul Lutheran as part of a class of 32 students, which was a record at the time. Most of my classmates went on to small Christian high schools. I went to a public school where I joined an incoming class of over 500. I knew about seven people, and I rarely saw any of them. Being alone was bearable for the six hours out of the day when there was class but lunchtime bad. Lunchtime was terrifying.

Photo by: The U.S. Army
The cafeteria was packed, but somehow it was never crowded enough for me to inconspicuously sit anywhere. The tables were round, so sitting meant approaching a group. I was afraid to sit with a group who might reject me, so I sat alone at an empty table and my table stayed empty all through lunch. It felt pathetic to be so alone in such a crowded room. The same thing happened on the second day. And the third day. I felt so lonely I wanted to cry.

On the last day in that cafeteria I sat down feeling insignificant, awkward and alone. Then Robert walked up to me and changed me life. I'd seen Robert at St. Paul and at church but we hadn't talked much.
“Come on” Said Robert, “We don't eat here.”

I didn't know exactly what he meant but he was talking to me and that felt nice. He said “we” too, which felt even better. I followed Robert and he lead me to a little nook in the science hall where he and the kids from the Christian Club ate. Maybe it's dorky that we had a club, but I really needed those people. I ate with them every day for the next four years. They were there for me when I needed a place to belong. They were my family when I was alone.

Being alone is the worst. We weren't created for it (Genesis 2:18), and God wants better for us. We're meant for families, both real families and adoptive families. I don't meant to say we ought to never take a moment alone. I'm an introvert and I need time alone, but even as an introvert I know I cannot survive without a loving community.

I believe there is no comfort like that of truly belonging. Sadly we often live without the supportive communities we were created to thrive in. We hang back from meeting new people because we imagine we aren't interesting or cool enough. We avoid friendships we think will carry too much work. We don't share our struggles because we tell ourselves we aren't important. We even hold back encouragement and compliments so we don't appear too attached. We keep one another alone when we were created to be in awesome communities. Brothers and Sisters, this is all very dumb and we need to cut it out.

I know that it is hard to offer or to ask for help. It requires vulnerability. We get hurt when we're vulnerable, but it's so totally worth it. Jesus made himself vulnerable so that we could have a relationship with him. He got hurt, but still thought we were valuable enough to do it anyway. Jesus loves us, thinks we're terrific, created us exquisitely, and is excited to walk through life with us. With our confidence grounded in him, we needn't fear rejection. When we reach out, the worst thing that can happen is that someone may decline our awesome friendship. That's sad to be sure, but the way I see it it's their loss.

Root yourself in Jesus and take confidence in knowing he's crazy about you. Then reach out and love somebody. You just may save their life.

1 comment:

  1. Great words, David. I know for a fact that if you and the rest of Alpha-Omega (the dorky christian club mentioned above), I wouldn't be alive... or if I was, I wouldn't be nearly as sane.

    I am not ashamed to admit that I feel lonely. God isn't enough for us, God himself says so. But I often believe the lies of worthlessness and unimportantness that feed into the fear of rejection that I've cultivated for years. I don't know how to break myself from this cycle that breeds depression and worse, but I take comfort in knowing that Jesus is sympathetic and understands, and in that I am not alone in these struggles. Thanks for your honesty and your triumph,

    Michael Brothers


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