By Cheryl Boyd
I am 40.
It's the truth. The reality of that truth hit me about a year ago when a medical professional advised me to "get some work done." That well-intended bit of advice joined the choir of voices that sings a deafening me-centered anthem each day.
But it's not all about me. God did not give me the resources He did so that I would squander them on trying to avoid reality. The years, the wisdom, and the experience of God's faithfulness that has remained constant for my entire life are all beautiful gifts. My community group reminds me of that truth as they speak from God's Word and from their own years of experience. Without their loving, yet uncomfortable correction, I am tempted to hide the truth—especially as I am often the oldest person in the room at my job and as I serve at The Porch. When I live in reality and remember my true value and identity is found in Christ and not in my beauty or youth, I am free to love and serve rather than keep up a protective facade.
I place a higher value on tasks than on people.
I was reminded of this just last week. I was passionately presenting my opinion on a ministry decision. While my words said, "I don't have a problem with you, I just feel strongly about the issue," I was forced to stop in my tracks as a battered and bruised friend was literally backed on his heels. He bravely and humbly revealed that my words hurt. I was more concerned with getting my point across and pressing the issue than loving my friend. Without his value for community, his willingness to inflict "wounds from a friend," (Proverbs 27:6) I would continue on believing that I was "right"—alienating those I care about and destroying valuable working relationships.
I avoid vulnerability.
I am quick to speak factually and state opinions, but I find it very hard to show others how I feel.
For years I had many acquaintances, but no true friends that I trusted so much that I would be willing to bare my soul to them. I was lonely. I felt isolated in the crowd as my friends chose to spend more time with those who let them "in." With all the blessings of community, the truth is that there really is no community where there is no vulnerability. When there is no vulnerability, I am not known, I am not free to be myself—I am not experiencing God's love.
If I face reality alone, I am in a place of despair. But in the context of community, I am facing reality with hope as I experience joy and depth in relationship with others as well as in my relationship with God. I have grown more than I thought was possible. Even the fact that I have listed these things about myself shows how I've grown in being vulnerable! I still have a long way to go, but I can rest in the security of knowing that God has provided dear friends to lovingly show me areas of my life where I am deceiving myself and believing lies, blind spots that I would never discover on my own, and opportunities to step out in faith that I would not take advantage of without their encouraging support.
Friend, you are depraved.
While you won't find that in a greeting card, it is the truth. The fact is that that I am, too. We all are. Denying that truth puts us on a path to death and destruction. There is no way to experience life, freedom, and abundance while living in denial. The truth sets us free (John 8:32), but that freedom is only found in the context of community.
Ephesians 4:14-15 states: "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."
Do you see the result if we don't have people around us who are willing to lovingly speak truth into our lives? We will stay immature. Life will be tumultuous as we experience a reality-vertigo. We will be susceptible to lies. We will think we can do it on our own. That is just not true. No one has become mature with Christ-like character outside of community. God created us to be part of His body. It is His provision and His process for us.
It can feel scary, but I have never regretted facing my friend, reality, as long as all of the grace, love, and security that God provides through community is surrounding me as well.