A thought has stirred my heart - especially this week. Sometimes we find ourselves in new communities, inside new life groups, working in new ministries - with new people. Wonderful, wonderful new people. Meeting new people is probably my favorite thing to do. I can’t get enough of it - new hearts colliding with mine. I anticipate their new experiences and stories. God reveals fascinating, new sides of Himself through new friendships & community.
I must be honest though - another reason why I find new community so appealing might have to do with this - they are NEW. New community knows next to nothing about our past screw-ups - ya know, the messy stuff that you gladly left behind. The cringe when you think about that memory moments. They haven’t seen you yet in your fleshly did that just really come out of my mouth moments. They didn’t walk with you in those deeply horrifying crying on the floor of the bathroom cause you can’t find victory kind of moments. They’ve never seen your anger outbursts or experienced your codependency. All they see is a bright warm face that said hi, gave them a hug, and welcomed them through the door.
It can be easy to fully embrace new communities, and that is great. We should!
An encouragement I’d love to put forth is this - don’t forget those people who walked through those cringe-worthy moments with you. The people who gave you a safe space to be super messy as you wrestled with God. Those seasons of tremendous heartbreak. Those seasons of massive trauma. Those people who called before you went to bed because they knew it was gonna be a sleepless night for you. Those who let you blow up their phones with your novel-long texts. The friends and family who let you scream and yell at them when you felt so angry with the current season you were in. The ones who the Lord used to help piece your broken heart back together.
I remember my mom gently consoling and comforting me over the phone for hours and hours my first year of college when I was completely lost, angry, bitter, and ill from loneliness. I would say bye over the phone to her, hang up, then pick up the phone and call her again 15 minutes later.
I remember my middle school small group leader who would make me dinner at her house weekly. She would combat Truth with all the lies I believed about my awkward middle school self. She’d sit with me in complete, undivided attention - as if NOTHING in the world was more important to her than showering Truth over me and my insecure heart. God used this woman to minister to my soul.
I remember struggling for years and years because my hair didn’t grow. I continually cried, vented and complained to a dear friend of mine. She eventually went to a salon and asked for her long beautiful hair to be cut to the length of mine - as an act to show me that “Hair is just hair, Nat. Short hair is beautiful, too.”
My amazing, incredible sister. During a season when sin was crouching at my door - she and a friend of ours would wake up at the crack of dawn to pray for me for weeks. They refused to let me sink.
I could go on and on and on. Sometimes these seasons are embarrassing to reflect on. Friendships can even get wounded because of them. Life is messy. Sin is messy. Christian community is ironically (and not so ironically) super messy too. But these seasons are all part of the Christian walk. It’s heavy and humiliating to think that people have seen some of the deepest, most raw parts of us. Of course new friendships are appealing! But how blessed we were to have those people who knew us and chose to love us during those times.
This isn’t to say you necessarily need to have the same relationship as you did before. A lot of times, life naturally moves on and these people who shouldered your burdens may not be in your present community anymore. They may live in a different area - they might go to a different church. Maybe they are in a different vocation or ministry. Maybe one or both of you are busier now and can’t hang out like you used to. Maybe you have both changed over the years and the relationship has cooled off and you aren’t as close anymore. Maybe there was a falling out and resolution hasn't come yet. It’s okay that life finds us in different seasons with new friendships.
But, new communities get to enjoy some of the more refined and sanctified parts of our walks. Of course, if you live in authentic and honest community - new communities will start to see each other’s messiness, too (no matter how much life you’ve lived). This is what it means to do life together. We are always going to be broken in one way or another.
My encouragement is - don’t forget about those people who helped you get to where you are now. Those people who helped lay your foundation. Those people who God used to bandage your wounds. New communities get to reap the benefits that those special friends sowed.
Remember those who went through the wringer with you.
Think back on some of the heavier seasons of your life. Who helped you through those? Write them a letter expressing your sincere gratitude for their time, energy, attention, encouragement, or hospitality they showed to you in that season. Let them know that you will never forget the care they gave you.