There is a natural inclination for most people to become a lot more reflective whenever a year comes to an end. I am no different. Along with the impossible task of choosing a new planner for the next year, I find myself in deep thought over how the last 12 months have gone. This year, more than most, I have discovered -well, rediscovered- the beauty of community.
According to the trusted Google dictionary (we’re not fancy here) community is defined as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. I would say the second clause far surpasses the first. Although close proximity to a group of people is important, community goes beyond physical location. My pastor says community is found in people that have a common unity. There are values and belief systems that hold a group of people together regardless of where they are. For Christians like myself, Christ is that anchor and because of that, where there is community there is weight. There is a grounding that means that I don’t have to be moved when trouble comes my way.
This year, like every year, I have faced challenges. Who hasn’t? The only difference with this year is that those challenges had more fruitful outcomes because I was surrounded by a group of believers that stood with me. Now I’m sure the concept of community is not foreign to you but maybe you can assess the effectiveness of your own as you go through this post. Here are just a few things I have learnt this year.
Community is built, not bought.
Real community is not something you can buy your way into. Real community takes work. It is built over time through sacrifice, vulnerability and love. Community takes time to build because it is the result of consistent and intentional investment of yourself into the lives of those within it. Jesus spent time with his disciples daily. He loved them. He taught them. He rebuked them. He prayed for them. These same things are required of us and there are several charges to us in scripture to do these things with those around us.
Community is your responsibility.
You cannot be part of a community just to take. Community will only yield a return for you to the extent that you are willing to invest. My community values honesty, openness and transparency. If I am not willing to open my mouth and share what’s going on, I cannot expect to move past my current position. It is through deliberate and sometimes challenging conversations that fear is talked down, lies are challenged and spirits are lifted and it is from that freedom that you can begin to serve those around you. You must communicate your emotions, desires, needs, expectations, hurts to those around you with grace, truth and wisdom. This is how relationships are formed and then eventually (hopefully) maintained.
You might not like everybody in your community because God can bring the most unlikely people together but we are not commanded to like people. We are commanded to love them. Conflict, disagreements and offences will come but the onus is on you to keep building. There is a reason Proverbs 27:17 says iron sharpens iron. Sparks will fly!… and that’s okay. Forgive, extend grace and keep it moving.
Community is beautiful.
When done well, when done intentionally, when done purposefully, community is beautiful. There is a beauty in seeing people in functional Christ-authored relationships working out their faith together, upholding one another in prayer and loving each other through the good and the bad, flaws and all. In Christ, this is what community is. This is what community should be. It is Christ in us that allows such unity to be possible because Lord knows if not for Christ, I would be a very isolated person.
I am grateful for the grace that Christ shows me daily through the household of believers I am privileged to be part of. I am grateful for the lessons learnt through every word of correction. I am grateful for the desires that have been manifested as a result of the encouragement I have received from my community at various points this year. If you are part of a such a community, I encourage you to send a message to them right now, expressing your gratitude for them. It is easy to take people for granted as we become more familiar with them but a functional and loving community is a rare find so I will leave you with the task written out for us in Hebrews 3:13 – “But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.”
My prayer for you dear reader is that you grow deeper in fellowship with those around you and that the nature of God will be revealed to you more and more through those people in the new year and years to come.
And if you’re looking for a photographer, hit up @jessekonadu.photography on instagram or visit her website: www.jessekonaduphotography.com