What I learned About the Church From a Little Group of Introverts

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God has been tucking something into my heart for quite some time, regarding the Church, and I’m only just now able to put it into words. I’ve been asking Him for a while to let me be a small part in the healing of His people. You know, the folks who know Him and love Him. Who follow Him, claim His Name and seek community within the body of believers.

Growing up in the Church, I’ve noticed a fair amount of fracturing and isolation among its members and I know Jesus well enough to understand that this ought not to be so. I’ve also been blessed to experience the warmth of deep friendships with other believers, the kind where you walk away with this profound sense that you are both intimately known and unconditionally loved. Which, as we all know, is hard to find in a world that measures your worth and value by mainly what you bring to the table and not simply by who you are there on your insides.

Because of my friendships, I’ve come to actually feel, not just know Christ’s love in the most tangible way. I want this to be true of other believer’s experience, too. I think it’s absolutely vital in order to sustain a life of faith, that believers not just have some head knowledge of the love of God, but that they actually feel the warmth of His tender affection with their very hearts. I believe one of the greatest ways we feel God here is through the people that He’s made.

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I’m still not able to formulate what this looks like yet, but I’ve wanted to somehow remind (and even demonstrate) to the Church what it means to be with each other consistently in ways that we can be both known and loved. One of the greatest fears people have, I think, is that they will finally be known and yet not loved. And I’ve noticed that when people grow secure in the knowing kind of love and acceptance within community, it’s much easier to extend this sort of love to those outside of that community. And isn’t this the point of Christianity? That the world around us would feel the love of Christ? Would be drawn to Him? Would want to walk closely with Him, too?

So, as I’ve been quietly praying these prayers, God has been quietly at work doing small things here and there to teach me and turn these Kingdom dreams into realities. Like the other day, out of the blue, a friend called and invited me to spend some time with a little group of women, all of whom were working in ministry within the church. We sat in a cozy room next to a warm fire and they were gracious to let me ask them my questions. The first thing I learned, and I laughed, was that they were all introverts.

To get to know them better, I started out with questions like these:
(Thanks to my friend, Wes, who had kindly asked me these questions a week or so earlier.)

  1. What’s something that you love about your life right now?
  2. What’s something that’s stressing you out?

Each of these ladies were from different parts of the country. They had already spent a few days together so they were somewhat familiar with one another. But translating that over into the context of church, there is this assumption that being together with a group of people over long periods of time somehow equates knowing one another. It does not.

We have to be intentional about the questions we ask each other if we want to truly know each other. We also have to learn how to be safe places so that others trust us with the parts of their lives that they give us.

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The other questions I asked were these:
(These are some things I’m deeply curious about right now, not just regarding the Church, but within the larger community of friends I’m a part of.)

  1. Do you feel lonely? (Just a little bit and only sometimes? Or mostly?)
  2. What do you long for in community? (Have you ever experienced this?)
  3. What does a healthy community of friendships look like to you?

I learned that half the ladies had a few close friendships, and since they were introverts, that was plenty enough to satisfy their longing for intimacy with others.

But, the other half were pretty lonely. Now, I want to make it clear that none of these women came across as complaining. They all carried this remarkable grace about them. Several of them were lonely, but they were still thankful and they were strong.

A few of the ladies mentioned that they didn’t really have any close friends outside of her husbands. Even though they were in full time ministry, there was no one they felt they could trust. One of the girls talked about her “best friend” from college who she talked to occasionally, but her friend had fallen on hard times and for several years now, has only ever called to vent. When the phone rings she asks herself, “Do I really have a couple hours right now to just listen?” knowing full well there won’t be time to talk about her own struggles or even about the things that are going well.

I learned that many of these women were constantly putting themselves out there, even though it isn’t in their nature to be outgoing, because they don’t want another person within their community to feel awkward or alone.

I’m still learning and processing the things I gathered from that little group of beautiful women, but it did confirm for me what I want to continue to do. I want to keep praying and seeking how I can help the Church take better care of each other. So that there will be more and more gatherings of believers that are actually safe places for each other. Where the love of Christ is felt though each other’s listening hearts and accepting spirits. And so that we’re better equipped to be those kinds of people for the rest of the world.

I’m excited about what’s to come.

Send me your thoughts if you want. Or answer those questions up there. If you don’t want to comment below, you can send your thoughts or answers here: surprisedbyhope@yahoo.com

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