A few weeks ago I was sitting at home, getting ready for my Bible study group’s first social distancing parking lot party. I’m not going to lie, anytime I’m getting ready to go to a social gathering, no matter what the occasion is, my secret introvert comes out with a vengeance. I think of every excuse in the book to get out of going.
I was tired. It was going to be a long drive roundtrip. I’d had a long day. I didn’t feel good.
Luckily I talked myself out of my funk, reminding myself how I’ve done this before and still have never regretted going.
Later, while driving home, I realized something strange. I had so much energy.
How could someone go from excuse-filled, low-energy loner to this social distancing butterfly? Was I actually a full-on extrovert all this time? Nope.
I'm not energized by social gatherings. I’m energized by my authentic community.
And not all communities are authentic communities. When you’re in an authentic community space, the chains come off. You’re free to take off your mask and be yourself. You speak your truth and what’s really going on in your life, not trying to cover up or put on a brave face. You leave filled with love for and from your people.
Some communities, on the other hand, can drain you. Maybe you put guards up as soon as you engage, worrying about looking a certain way or possibly saying the wrong thing. Maybe you cover your feelings or shame with smiles, not knowing you can trust your story with the people around you.
Here’s the thing. As Christ-followers, we were made for authentic community, not counterfeit friendships. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
When’s the last time you felt comfortable confessing anything or asking for sincere, powerful prayer from someone you didn’t trust? Probably not very often. We can’t expect to reap the “great power” and “wonderful results” of confession and prayer if we don’t feel comfortable being ourselves and letting others in on the behind the scenes look at our lives.
We can grow in our relationship with Christ is by growing in community with fellow believers who will pray for us and do real life with us. Here are some ways to get plugged in with an authentic community.
Join a community group. Go to your church pastor or leader and ask about being paired up with a community group. You can usually explain what type of community you’re looking for (all women, couples, parents, multi-generational) and be connected with the leader of a community you can visit. And if you don’t hit it off with a group you meet, keep looking! Just tell the leader upfront about your desire to meet as many group members as possible at church, and thank them for letting you visit and do life with their group.
Find or start a Bible study. I met my authentic community of Christian women at our church’s women’s Bible study. I knew one person, the study leader, before entering the room. Now, I’m blessed to say I have personal relationships with women across the board, not just in my group. Look into local Bible studies you can join. If you can’t find one that interests you, consider starting your own! Pick out a book or study and tell your local friends and social media followers about your plans.
Join the Wheatful Woman community. Don’t believe the lie that you can’t find real community online! Some of the best friends I have in my life came from virtual meetups and comment exchanges. Try introducing yourself and telling others where you’re from, asking if there are any local ladies who would want to meet for coffee in your area. You never know who might be right down the street!
No matter how you choose to engage in community, make sure authenticity is at the heart of the group. Tell your circle about your desire to know each of them for who they really are, and express the trust and confidentiality each person can come to expect from you. Challenge each person to let their guards down and build an authentic community.