Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Taking the risk with Christian community

I was sitting in a Jeep Cherokee on the way to a training course with several coworkers. We had stopped at a red light when we heard the sound of squealing metal behind us. The driver may have seen what was coming in the rearview mirror, but I was unprepared. The Jeep lurched forward as we were rear-ended by the tractor trailer whose brakes announced its imminent arrival into our bumper. Thankfully our vehicle wasn't totaled, and no one was hurt other than a few stiff backs. But 30 years later, I still get nervous when I see a large truck pull behind me while I'm waiting at a light. If there's room, I will edge forward just a wee bit to give it a little more braking room because I vividly remember what happened before, and I don't want it to happen again.

There have been other incidents in my life that I don't want repeated. Even though years have gone by, the wounds are in various stages of healing and are still tender to the touch. So my default is to pull away relationally to maintain a safe distance. In the past, I was very much alone during my trials, so I knew I needed the support of Christian community. Yet I unconsciously braced myself, waiting and wondering if I would be hurt again, even inadvertently, if someone got too close to one of my sore spots. Thus I found myself in a catch-22 situation. I wanted help but was wary of being hurt, so that fear kept me from getting the help I needed. To compound the situation, there was no shortage of lies from the pit to cast doubt and increase distrust.

But fear of man, and especially an unfounded fear of believers I know and love, cannot be trusted, so I reached out to my church and asked for help, and my fears were proven to be wrong. I am still wrestling with the aftermath of past trials, so was I let down? Absolutely not! The absence of a cure-all does not mean an absence of care. I needed to take the risk to stop bracing myself, waiting to be rear-ended, and slowly let down my guard. Others took the risk of possibly saying the wrong thing or having to admit that they did not even know what to say. But as the dialogue continues, we will grow in understanding and love for one another. It may even encourage others to come forward and open up as well. This doesn't happen overnight but takes time, grace, and vulnerability. But perhaps the real benefit in community isn't in how quickly problems get fixed, but the covenant commitment to walk together for the long haul.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph. 4:1-3

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