Last week, I talked about how I lost trust in community over the last 10 years, but especially more recently. A lot of you reached out publicly and privately, online and in person, to share your own frustrations with specific communities in your life. It is always encouraging to know I’m not alone, but my heart breaks that communities at large have become so fractured.
My own observations feel that this has been a long time coming. The pandemic was just the physical manifestation of things that have been happening for a while. In my life time, we have had large established entities fail us. We no longer have the security of our schools since Columbine and Sandy Hook. We no longer have the security of our American soil after 9/11. We no longer have the security of buying a home or our economy after the recession and housing crisis. Even in the last year, we have seen failings in our legal system, corporations, and many more, even in our own churches.
And in this pandemic, there has been no consensus in our government or even in our medical field. While ER doctors who are on the brink of breakdown are begging people to get vaccinated, we have nurses who are mourning the loss of their job because they don’t trust the vaccine. I have seen people be berated for wearing masks in a grocery store, while others are yelled at for not wearing them at all.
But regardless of how or why, which I’m sure people with much more expertise that I have are already trying to figure it out, I think we can agree that community is broken. But, it’s not gone forever. We were made for community. I truly believe that it will break through, that somehow through compassion and conversation, wounds will heal.
I’m in a unique position right now. While waiting for our impending move to a new home (the house is still being built so we have to wait until that is done), I have been taking the time to figure out what I am looking for in building or joining communities moving forward.
First, healthy boundaries. I am choosing to trust my own voice given to me by God to remind myself that I am valuable and worthy of any community I choose to join. In the past, when I’ve moved to a new area, I always started with a posture of proving my worth by exhausting myself in busyness so that people in that community would label me in positive light. Without that being my goal anymore, I can now focus on developing healthy relationships, making commitments when I’m ready and feel that I can devote the time and energy required.
Second, finding places that don’t participate in gatekeeping. I want to find places and groups where anyone would feel welcome, safe and loved walking through the doors. No matter how long they stayed, they didn’t feel judged and were met not with a put together attitude but one of humility and love.
Third, finding people who lead with love, that are willing to sit in the tension of differing opinions, devoted to listening with humility and being okay with not having everything figured out. None of us have all the answers, though we have lots of opinions. Trite, cliched comments that attempt to sweep others under the rug need not apply.
And finally, having an awareness for the needs of the community. Not just in service projects, but in learning how to develop relationships with people who don’t look like them, think like them, talk like them. Leading the conversations with questions and curiosity instead of judgment and close-mindedness.
Our communities are fractured, but I still have hope. I have already begun to develop relationships with people who have hearts like the ones I described above. I see that as a sign that God is guiding me. I will continue to pray for our communities, that God moves in big ways. And I look forward to seeing where we will find these places and people that will make a difference that we desperately need.