One of the things that I am most thankful for this November is the community of people that we have found in our new home, Nashville, TN. For the first time in our married lives, Jonny and Scarlett and I live in a city where we are without any immediate family. This is pretty strange because Jonny and I both come from large families, but, we are not lonely nor are we alone. We have a community (people used to just call them friends but I believe Facebook has watered down that word so we have come to find more depth in the word community). What makes community and true friends valuable? What is it that makes us crave real conversation and then feel isolated if we don't have it, even when though we may be surrounded by people?
I think it is our hearts desire to be known. Really known. I heard a speaker say once that being in a place of intimacy with someone else is being allowed to be your true self, to find a place that is safe being who you really are. For me, I know that this is one of the most difficult things that I encounter. It is one of the greatest challenges of my life: to be vulnerable enough to let others see who I am, truly. There are things that I will allow people to see, and thus throw them off the scent to being able to see who I really am, but, then I find myself feeling isolated and without any meaningful relationships.
There are two main reasons that I think I shy away from this vulnerability.
#1. I worry about people seeing my flaws and their judgement of them.
#2. I worry about people seeing my strengths and still rejecting me because they want me to be someone different. They like to think of me in another way so they reject who I really am.
Eeek and Sheesh this is hard to write.
Here is why I am writing:
A couple of Sunday's ago, the pastor of the church I attend said that he had prayed for God to allow him to see himself through God's eyes. I wrote that down and let the prayer wander it's way through my mind. I thought the prayer could be revealing in 2 ways:
#1. I could see how much sin I truly have clinging to me. How much pride, bitterness, and anger really make their home in me, affecting my moods and decisions despite how often I pretend they aren't there and don't influence me.
#2. I could see how loved I am. This thought made me gasp.
I have a daughter who's very existence has changed my thoughts about love. Just after she was born I wrote in a journal that I had been writing for her since I found out I was pregnant and I want to share a bit of what I wrote to her:
"Scarlett, when you were first laid on my chest, after being born, my eyes and brain and heart registered, simultaneously, an emotion that had never presented itself to me before. A parent's love. This love is both ache and rapture, ecstasy with weeping, fullness and emptiness. My body released you, emptying itself of you and your nearly 8 lb. body to begin a life apart from me, yet filling me. To see you was to inhale this new love, filling me till bursting. I instantly realized that I have never come close to understanding my mother's/father's love for me. With every teenage eye-roll, toddler tantrum and willful rejection of them, I displayed the vacuum of knowledge that I possessed about their love for me. Yet, just because I couldn't comprehend it, or didn't even know that it existed, that didn't mean it wasn't there. It was there from my first gasping, struggling breath, when my father and his 6'6" frame leapt for joy, knocking a ceiling tile from it's place high above his head.
If I could measure the difference between the amount of love that I thought my parents had for me and the probable amount that they actually had/have for me, as I can now feel, as your parent, pushing against the inside of my chest, then I would see that what I thought was a grain of sand was indeed, actually, a mountain."
Ephesians 3:18 says, "And may you have the power to understand...how wide, how long, how high, and how deep [God's] love is."
If we had a clue how well He knows us, the real, true, us and how great His love for us is/has always been/will always be then what kind of people would we be? I honestly can't even fathom. His love for us is greater than my love for my daughter and I can't comprehend how that can be, but I know it is. Perhaps it is because He knows us so deeply. He knows what can be found beneath everything we show to others, behind the words that we use to camouflage our insecurities. He knows us far better than we even know ourselves and He will use this knowledge of us to tailor fit His revelation of love to us...
And this is where our friends come in.
Timothy Keller says, "God does not simply create; he also loves, cares for and nurtures his creation....But how does his providential care reach us?....God's loving care comes to us largely through...others."
I am seeing that love in the friends I have surrounding my family, and for their outpouring, I am deeply thankful. I hope this Thanksgiving, you are catching a whiff, seeing a glimpse, feeling even just a hint of the great depth, length, height and width of God's love for you and are overwhelmed by it. I also hope that you understand the gift of being able to carry God's love to others. Look at your family and love them. Look at your friends and love them. Look at you neighbors and love them. Look at your community and love them. Love them by knowing them and allowing them to be exactly who they were created to be. Give them the safety and freedom to let down the walls, unclog the dam, and be known, be loved.
"I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends... "-John 15:11-15