#TellHisStory: When Community is Hard Work
The phone rang. My friend’s last name flashed across the caller ID.
When a friend dials that late, you know it’s probably a distress call.
“Hello?” I whispered into the phone from the darkened living room. “You OK?”
The wobble in her voice betrayed her tear-soaked distress. But I didn’t know yet that a decision my husband and I had made as a part of a ministry board, was the source of her deep anguish. Her sorrow turned to anger in an instant, and it dropped on me like a guided missile. I sank deep into my chair, with my legs curled under me — like maybe I could sink into the dark. But I couldn’t hide: It was a direct hit.
She questioned everything: our decision, our commitment to prayer, even our faith in Christ.
I said almost nothing, stunned and hurt, knowing that we made a very hard decision only after intense prayer, discussion and counsel. Silent tears streamed down my face.
That painful torpedoing happened several years ago, but the heart-bruise is still tender when I touch it.
Moments like those? Those are the moments when you are tempted to run away from leadership, from the church, from community. You want to retreat into a foxhole and never peek your head out, except when the delivery guy brings pizza. You decide that “yes” is a dangerous word.
You also are tempted send a missile back to the accuser and a missive back to the church: “Look, if you think you can do this job better, by golly, you can have it.”
You want to quit.
But the thing is, peace is never made on the missile-launch pad. It happens only when people lay down word-weapons and gather at tables for the hard work of getting along.
My heart-sister Lisa-Jo once quoted me some verses along those lines. We were sitting together at a breakfast table, talking about what it takes to build community in the midst of conflict. She read Scripture from her iPhone Bible app, but you could tell by the conviction in her voice, that the words were already written straight onto the curve of her heart.Listen closely, as Lisa-Jo reads the words from James 3:17-18 to us:”You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” (From The Message paraphrase)
Lisa-Jo leaned across the table and said this to me: “If it’s hard work, it doesn’t mean you’re doing community wrong. In fact? The hard work might be a sign that you’re doing community as God designed.”
Community will be messy and difficult and strenuous and back-breakingly exhausting. Of that, you can be certain. Sometimes it can feel mean and missile-launch-y and nasty, like you want to resign from the committee, move out of town, find a new circle of friends, race for the nearest foxhole and order pizzas for the rest of your life.
But you can also be certain that community is the way we make a difference in the world. We’re better together. To work best, community will need to pass through the Refiner’s Fire.
Hard work isn’t an option. It’s an obligation.
Behind every good community is a group of people who wouldn’t give up when it got messy.
Sitting at the table with Lisa-Jo, I remembered that painful encounter years earlier. I remembered how God brought me to the table with the woman on the other end of that phone call. (God still hasn’t fully healed that relationship, but I have hope.)
I remembered the people devoted to working hard and praying us all through that painful season as we sought to do His will. None of us was alone.
I think now of the Upper Room, and a 12-member community of rabblerousers, doubters and betrayers. Imagine the baggage those men brought to the table, and how they once argued over who would sit beside Jesus in Heaven.
Imagine how the disciples may have rolled their eyes at Thomas, with his incessant questioning. And how they must have been irritated with Peter’s impulsive behavior. And the way they probably seethed with jealousy when “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was pulled aside for one-on-one attention.
But they had to work hard to get along. And Jesus took that hard work all the way up a hill, to Golgotha.
So don’t believe for a second that community is crumbling around you, just because it feels hard right now. Know this instead: Because it’s hard, you may have proof that community is coming to life.
Hey Tell His Story crew! It’s always a joy to gather here every week. The linkup goes lives each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great. And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful!
Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Elizabeth is our latest featured writer. I love what she had to say about friendship on her blog: “Maturity realizes that there’s only one me and there’s only one you, and though my friend may have five other friends, there’s only one me in her life. Relationships shouldn’t be a competition. Being true to being who you are makes you irreplaceable. Trying to be like others in order to be liked and accepted makes you just another face in the crowd.”
(To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 )
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I so needed to hear this, Jennifer! Because of the hurts of my past, I am quick to build walls of protection around my heart when I feel threatened, even in very small ways. I needed to be reminded that community is messy and difficult, and that this is a normal part of life – not necessarily something to be taken as a personal attack. I will pray that God will help me learn to increasingly open my heart to those around me.
Praying with you, Kamea.
This. If we view one another through Christ’s eyes we would do less eye rolling ourselves! “When we claim and constantly reclaim the truth of being the chosen ones, we soon discover within ourselves a deep desire to reveal to others their own chosenness. Instead of making us feel that we are better, more precious or valuable than others, our awareness of being chosen opens our eyes to the chosenness of others. That is the great joy of being chosen: the discovery that others are chosen as well. In the house of God there are many mansions. There is a place for everyone – a unique, special place. Once we deeply trust that we ourselves are precious in God’s eyes, we are able to recognize the preciousness of others and their unique places in God’s heart.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Oh. That’s rich. Love Nouwen.
Seeing everyone I’m in community with through the eyes of Christ… if we all do that, we all can find the right way to loving each other despite the differences and stresses life brings.
I also hear the very clear lesson here that despite what others think, heeding the will of God is paramount, and can be done with grace and peace.
Thank you for such a powerful reminder, Jennifer! Your words and His really encourage right now!
Grateful for you here, Christine.
What a beautiful commentary on community. I’m in church leadership too, and sometimes things get, uh, HARD! I never thought about what it might have been to be on the team of apostles. You made me smile. They probably weren’t so different from us!
Yeah. I kind of get a kick out of those guys. They are so us.
I can relate. I’m in leadership position in our church and there’s been some hard stuff we’ve had to wade through. But there is a unity among us. We really do love and appreciate each other. It really takes a commitment and even sacrifice. Cause yes, I’ve felt like bailing out sometimes.
So good that you can see the blooms among the thorns, Debbie.
It’s uncanny how the Spirit speaks such similar messages to the heart of His people. I just submitted a post entirely focused on encouraging women to keep showing up in relationships — especially in the hard times. Because it’s in the hard times that friendship and community are most noticeably solidified! Your post was so relatable. Grateful for your words today, Jennifer!
That’s awesome, Jenni. We need more of what you have to say in this world! Grateful for you.
When two or more people gather in God’s name, miracles happen. Amazing force! 🙂
Agreed, Lux. Thanks for being here.
Great thoughts on community and such truth that God designs the hard but walks you through step by step. It is quite an “aha” when you quote Lisa Jo that if it’s hard work it doesn’t mean you are doing community wrong but a sign you are doing community as God designed. Have a blessed day.
Oh, my heart aches with this post, Jennifer, for that friend of yours. Kudos for keeping your calm and walking through it in a Jesus-like manner. That’s the rubber meeting the road. I pray that the relationship will someday be restored and that Jesus will be glorified in its community. Thanks for writing from a very “real” standpoint. Blessings.
I, too, pray for complete restoration of that relationship. Grateful for you, Kristi.
I must be doing community really well because it’s exhausting for me right now ;). Thanks for this much needed encouragement, Jennifer. I’m so sorry for your difficult circumstance with your friend. I’m sure that phone call was devastating and I can definitely understand why it still hurts. Much love to you.
LOL! Oh Candace…. I have to laugh, but I also want to hug you, friend. So sorry for tough community!
I needed to read this encouragement so much today. Thank you. Community is so difficult (especially for an introvert).
I’m glad these words served your heart, Anita.
So good, Jennifer- I needed to read this one, sister. Thank you. xoxo
You are welcome, Michelle. Thanks for stopping by!
Love this post…I have been in this place in my community multiple times and I am now choosing to Be Brave and embrace it instead of withdraw from it…it can be so difficult….thank you for your candor and encouragement.
Yes, it can be difficult. Praying this morning for your continued bravery in spite of the messes, Cindy.
Oh wow. I needed to hear this today, dear friend. This perfectionistic streak in me says that everything has to come easily to me, and when community is hard work, I figure I’m just not cut out for it. You and Lisa-Jo and (in)courage have all been gently pointing me back to the true beauty of (messy) community. Thank you for these words today!
So fun to see you here in the comments, Asheritah. Yeah. That Lisa-Jo. She’s a wise one. And like you, I learn so much about community from (in)courage.
Thank you for these much needed words. It also brought back Gal. 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up.”
That’s the perfect verse, Joanne!
Wise, hard-earned words, my friend. Heb 10:25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Have a blessed week!
Thanks for that verse. Just right for this, June.
Another beautiful and inspiring post my friend! Sometimes Yes is a very scary word and the temptation to run from our leadership roles tugs hard on the heart… But God… He is always right there to comfort our hurt and to reassure us that He always understands even when at times it can feel like others don’t.
Thank you for continuing to shine for our Jesus and for leading others to His grace.
Thanks for being here, Danise. xo
This post has resonated so deeply that I have goosebumps. I have also written down several of your quotes to put in the front of my Fuel Journal for our BRAND NEW LIFEGROUP that will be kicking off tomorrow. I am excited about the families represented in our new group, but at the same time, feel a bit out of my league. Regardless, this group is an answered prayer for community that I have longed for. I know it will be tough and I will be required to invest much. I also realize, at this stage in my life, that nothing easy is worth having. Thank you for sharing this time in your life. Thank you for encouraging others to press on to the purpose of Christ. More than anything, thank you for not giving up. Your testimony is an encouragement for those of us who still have yet to travel through the tough stuff. This is my first time linking up and I look foward to visiting again very soon!
So today’s the day for your new life group? Prayers for you as you build community, make space for the messy, and grow big in Jesus!
Thank you for featuring my post! From the beginning of my blogging/writing journey you have been a blessing and encouragement to me.
As a pastor’s wife, the pain, and ongoing commitment to persevere in community in spite of the pain, is all too familiar. I relate to and appreciate this post very much.
It was my pleasure to feature you amazing post. Loved it!
And I have to think that pastors’ spouses have a special place reserved for them in Heaven. Spa treatments and chocolate all day long! Love you friend.
Oh Jennifer, working at a church I so get this. There are so days I just want to run away and let someone else do my job if they think they can do it better. But you are so right..being part of a community is hard work! I loved this post! It truly blessed me today!
I have no doubt that church employees are uniquely attuned to these issues. Keep up the great work, Tara. May you persevere in Jesus.
Community and family are much alike – hard work in hard times are so much a part of not giving up! You express the heart of it – and the rally cry to keep on not giving up!
So true, friend! Thanks for commenting.
I absolutely needed to read this today! Community is hard. Thank you!
It is so tempting in community when it is difficult to assume that it is time to get out or take a break…thanks for this reminder to persevere.