Don’t underestimate the power of community. That is what I have learned with great pleasure over the last 14 months.
During one of the the most painful seasons of our lives, Kevin and I have experienced Christ-like love from a community of flawed people. It has been so beautiful, and I have to document and share and say thanks. It has come from one of the most unexpected places. (No, we didn’t convert to Mormonism or become Jehovah’s witnesses…However, I do think they know how to do “community” rather well.) We have found ourselves at a church just down the street from us; probably the closest thing the Quad Cities has to a “mega-church.” We found Harvest Bible Chapel. Coming from a charismatic background, we had heard from multiple people that this church was ‘legalistic’ and ‘dry.’ How wrong they were. (there have been a few legalistic moments, but not from the church itself. . .)
Rewind two years:
Kevin and I were starved for community. We were starving for authentic friendships and relationships. We needed to understand Biblically how suffering (most specifically in our case, miscarriage) fit into God’s plan. I was lonely. I felt that the Biblical accountability and community I had experienced at Wheaton college was so far in the past I would never find it in the “real world.”
Around that time, a devastating church split occurred and we were caught in the middle with friends on both “sides.” Long story short, we felt called to leave with the pastor who married us and who had been a tremendous spiritual mentor in both of our lives. This pastor, Justin, who we had committed to planting a church with, was (again, long story short) called by God to move to Omaha, NE for an estimated 12-18 months to undergo a rigorous pastoral residency with the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. Though we were excited about planting a church with him when he got back to the Quad Cities, we were in a desert. We tried to sustain a ‘home church’ with those who had committed to the church plant called “Sacred City,” but many friends had moved to Omaha and the ones who were in town didn’t seem committed. We were in a broken place, and the video podcast-watching home church dwindled quickly.
I believe this was God’s plan the whole time. In our spiritually ravenous state, we stumbled into what I can only describe as an oasis.
14 Months ago:
Kevin and I walked through the doors of Harvest for the first time, “church shopping,” if you will. We recognized a few people from around town, but mostly just really enjoyed the worship and the sincerity of the preaching. It was Biblical. It was water to our parched souls. “We liked it a lot” (in a British accent). We met someone who directed us to the “small group” kiosk. We knew no one in our small group, but a few yard volleyball games and meetings later, friendships were established. We began to process and wrestle through some of our deep hurt. Healing began…
We got that unexpected, dreaded “little phone call” that again took a child we thought God had chosen for us away. I posted about it on this blog and facebook, mostly so we wouldn’t have to tell everyone the bad news in person, over and over again.
Immediately, our community surrounded us with love and prayer. We were brought meals, flowers, and one friend even brought me a bright pink “Doodlicious” book for me to fill with my colorful feelings and, well, doodles :). We stayed up until midnight with sweet friends talking…wrestling…processing (probably lots of rambling on our part) through our feelings and beliefs (and unbeliefs) as they relate to God and his word. I received email after email from friends who grieve with us and sent their love through these letters. SO many of you offered any help we needed, and offered your sincere prayers. We cannot describe how it feels to receive an outpouring, yet again.
Part of me feels terrible for our friends who have stood with us and by us in this repeatedly crappy journey. I have my moments and days where I feel like we are SO unworthy of their love, grace, and friendship. My pride doesn’t want me to be on the receiving end. I would so much rather be on the “giving” end.
But the part of me that is so broken and desperately unable to get off the couch to make a birthday dinner for my husband says, “THANK. YOU. SO. MUCH. I am strengthened by your outpouring. You are so gracious to love us and befriend us in our darkest hours. Without you, our joy wouldn’t have been complete when we were joyful, and our grief would be so lonely.”
We have felt Romans 12:15 come alive. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” You, friends, have done such an amazing job of that. I only hope that I can be such a friend back to you all.
You could say that it was “chance” that we stumbled into this Church community, holy yoga community, and our friendships. You could say that any community would suffice in this desperation. But I believe it is a divine gift, for “A Man’s steps are directed by the Lord…” (Prov 20:24a).
I am so thankful that we are not alone as we continue to lament and cry out and be weak so He can be strong.
2 Cor 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” To that I say amen, cuz dang do I feel weak.
I think it’s time to go eat some of your tortilla soup, Katy. Thanks girl ;o)