Find a Way to Gather

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J_Kathy

I have a friend who gets up early every single morning of his life and goes to an AA meeting. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, he’s there. Another friend lives alone but finds a way to get to our open space hours at The Refuge every week because a hug and human touch is always worth it. Many others I know show up every week in different pockets of love, to listen to friends, to share spiritual reflections, to eat, to laugh, to serve—to just somehow be together.

For the past 21 years I have put my butt in the chair in some kind of healing or community group pretty much every single week of my life, even when I could think of 1,000 reasons other things to do that probably would feel a lot more fun. To some, it might seem a little desperate. Or a little weird. Or way too reliant on others. But I’m not afraid to admit it—I am one of those weird people who needs to rely on others because it’s good for my soul.

You see, my nature is self-reliance, to not need anyone, to take care of myself. Many view this as a positive quality, and the truth is it got me far in life for a long time. I can appear strong and confident and put-together. And sometimes I am.

However, the truth is that sometimes my “strength” is actually masked as pride. I don’t want to rely on others. I don’t want to need. I don’t want to make myself vulnerable. I don’t want to trust. I don’t want to receive. And when I look at that list of all the things I “don’t want to do” I chuckle, because each and every one of them are completely and totally opposite of the ways of Jesus.

Unfortunately, many of these prideful ways have been taught to us in our church experiences. Self-reliance and a “personal relationship with God” have permeated a lot of Christian culture. Some have told us that relying on others or needing or trusting others means we’re not relying on God enough. Making ourselves vulnerable can reveal our lack of faith, struggles, or pain and has sometimes been used against us. And aren’t good Christians supposed to give and give and give to others and never need anything in return?

Have you experienced some of these things along the way? I know I have, both subtly and directly. And some I have imposed upon myself. My guess is that needing, wanting, relying, receiving, sharing, trusting and deeply feeling are all scary and foreign for a lot of us.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received was getting a taste of what it was like to actually need other people in a small women’s group many years ago. Now, over two decades later, it’s why I keep fighting for healing community and ways for people to gather in all kinds of different ways, shapes and forms. Some of it is selfish; I know I need it. But it’s also because I want others to experience hope and healing, too, and it usually won’t happen without some kind of intention.

We can’t learn a lot of these things in the comfort of our own homes. We can’t learn a lot of these things sitting forward in a pew listening to someone talk. We can’t learn a lot of these things if we show up now and then and dabble and never really engage in long-term relationship and friendship with one another.

Jesus’ ways were always supposed to be uncomfortable. But in that discomfort, we are continually transformed. This is why I think we need to find ways to gather and share our hearts with one another in deep and meaningful ways. To need. To trust. To receive.

In the flesh.
Around tables of all shapes and sizes.
In living rooms.
In healing groups.
In classes and workshops and places to learn.
Online.
Side by side.
Heart to heart.
Face to face.

However it looks, it’s worth finding a way to be needy, to be vulnerable, to have to receive. To find a way to gather.

____________

Image credit: Beverley Goodwin

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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  • Bev Murrill

    My favourite word is Emmanuel… and I think for any Christian, God with us means us with us. Ekklesia must mean community or we’re in serious trouble.

    I agree with all you’ve written here, Kathy, right down to the default to self-reliance and independence… but we need each other, whether we want to or not…

    Bless you…

  • Donna-Jean Brown

    I totally agree, Kathy. I wish more church leaders would understand your perspective. For too many of the gatherings I’ve gone to , hoping for community, the leaders have hogged the whole time with their preaching/teaching and left no time for the attendees to get to know each other and share their faith journeys week by week. I’ve often left feeling lonely, and thinking I might as well have stayed home and listened to a podcast.

  • jenn

    I could have written this piece myself. The words ‘I don’t want to make myself vulnerable’ resonated tenfold and was a welcomed reality ground. Thank you for naming what my pride masks and for the inspiring post. You are not alone, friend!

  • Mindy Bates

    For so long I have realized the need for other “messy” people in my life. I had always thrown myself into some form of recovery or another. I could always tell people what was wrong with me. People could always tell me what was wrong with them. I have Isolated over the past few years. I love the message of the church I go to, and the few people that I have met, but I miss the messy community of the Refuge.

  • Tracey

    I actually bared some yesterday and told the group about my ‘faith shift’ and freaked out some, but found many others that just hugged me and said they’d been there before too. One gal looked at me – I thought you really had it together. It’s hard to fellowship when you feel so alone and dang if these holidays weren’t isolating b/c of everyone getting sick in GA. Small steps with a small group made a small difference.

  • Putting my hand up to being ‘a reader who hasn’t spoken up yet’. I’ve only recently come across this online magazine and look forward to reading and engaging more.

  • pastordt

    AMEN – so well said, Kathy – every bit of this. And yes, I do think the church encourages competence and self-sufficiency and that often just messes up the whole concept of what koinonia should be about, right? Thank you.

  • O, that self-reliance … Ouch. Such wisdom here, Kathy. Thank you!