When community hurts

Several years ago, I was in love with community. I was deep in the throes of it in my church, where I live, and in online ministry. I loved every thing about it – the feeling of belonging, the feeling of being able contribute and serve others, of knowing that there were people to care for us if we needed it.  I was passionate about it because I believed in it and I knew we were created for it.

But then I was hurt by it.

In some of the darkest days of my life, when I needed community the most, it began to fail. Suddenly, the people I thought I could count on were hard to find. The ones I needed to sit with me and hold my hand and pray with me and tell me we’d get through this because we would do it together. The wonderful thing about God is that though most of the people I counted on let me down, He placed others in my life to pick up the pieces temporarily. Those people were a beautiful gift and kept me holding on to hope.

But like I said, it was temporary.

When the days got brighter, I thought the people who had pulled away out of fear or perhaps simply awkwardness would come back. That things would go back to the way they were before. I missed them, and even though I was hurt, I wanted to move on and get things back to normal.

I sit here today feeling so isolated, so lost, so alone.

I do have a few lovely and wonderful friends and I appreciate them so incredibly much. They are the ones who did not leave, who model what true and real community really is. Because of them, I still believe in it. I am still passionate about it. I still want it for me and for you.

Most days, though, I feel like I am on the fringes, gazing longingly at groups of people laughing, hugging, sharing their joys and upsets, wishing I was part of it, wishing I could laugh and hug and be joyful or sad with them. I feel like the outsider, the one no one knows or no one wants to invite over. I feel like something is wrong with me, that repels people rather than draws them in.

It is so hard, this feeling like you don’t belong anywhere. It makes you want to hide while at the same time you desperately want to fit in. You want to give your heart and help another but shy away because you are afraid of being trampled.

But I am slowly starting to dip my toes in again. Because even though past experience has taught me that the risks are high, the fact is I am shriveling without it. We need each other in order to flourish. We need to meet together, we need to build one another up. We need to encourage each other all the more.

More than that, I need to build others up. I need to encourage. I need to serve. I need to offer help and hope.

It is the water my soul thirsts for.

Thank you for being my community.