Sorry all. Got busy at work yesterday and forgot to post this. Let’s jump right in…
Chapter 5 – Cheers: Where Everybody Knows Your Name
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34, 35 NLT)
This chapter is all about community. You should be proud of me right now. I got to the point right out of the gate. There is something to the power of community that helps us love God more. Allows us experience Him more clearly. Helps us to enter into His presence. It’s says very clearly that where 2 or more gather in His name He will be there. Humans were made as beings in need of community. We were made to be in relationship. First and foremost made to be in relationship and community with God. And He made us to be in community together.
From the beginning there was community and we were born into.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26, 27 NLT)
Let US make humans in OUR image. OUR image. The trinity existed long before we knew. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect community and unity together. Community was set into existence from day one.
There is only one time in the creation story where God says something is not good about the creation. That not good thing is that Adam was alone. God instantly corrects and gives Eve to Adam. The lack of community was the only thing about the creation that God saw as not good. Shouldn’t that tell you something? It for sure tells me something. Tells me isolation is not good. Tells me that we were not meant to live life alone.
So back to a little bit of my life in this same time period of struggle that I was going through. Wanna know what the main problem was that got me into the hard spot? It was pretty simple. I was by myself. My wife and I had just had our daughter a few months earlier. It turns out that having a baby changes lots of things. More things change than I was prepared for.
I was out of work but had spent a lot of that free time going into my church and helping with the video teams. One of my best friends was on staff with the video team at the church so I got to spend a lot of time with him. Lots of focused video making and connection.
So my baby girl was born on Mother’s Day and it was awesome and she is an amazing little girl. But there was a big shift that happened when my wife’s maternity leave ended. And it was the plan that we came up with. It would be great.
My wife, being a nurse, works 3 days a week. I was working a part time job where I set my schedule. So I’d take care of my little girl while mom was at work and then I would go into work the other days. Sounds great and perfect right? Problem, I lost more than I knew. I no longer had the time to spend at church like I was before. My days were more taken. I was at work in an office relatively alone on a few days and the others I was sitting by myself in a house with a fussy 2 month old.
Now lots had been going on under the surface before this point but this ended up becoming the tipping point. The hinge that opened the door to dark places in my heart. The voices of being forgotten. The voices that no one cared to check up on me. The voices that I was unnecessary to any process.
I still had some other serving rolls I was in. I was still leading at our second campus in worship. I was still having encounters with Jesus. But something was darkly different.
Some important things to know about me. I’m actually an introvert. Extrovert by necessity. So I do need my time alone and quiet. But that aside, I thrive in community. I loved being the one who used to always get people together. I Made parties and hanging out happen.
More info, I can spin in my own head very easily. Thoughts get swirling quickly when I don’t have an outlet. So in isolation, the voices quickly took over. All of a sudden I was criticizing and comparing and diving deeper into prideful insecurity. That’s all gross right? Of course it is. I agreed with lying voices without even knowing it.
Wanna know why I find myself free to write this book. Free to put some hard stuff in here for all to read. Freer of these voices than I have ever been in my whole life.
My friends caught me on my way down. Actually they caught me just as I was just hitting rock bottom. How did they know something was wrong if I was not talking and not being close to anyone. The real truth, regardless of me wanting to believe it in my darkness, is that they know me. I’m known by people who love me. In an instant they read it all over me and called it out. It was actually my friend Wheezy (DeWayne is his real name but I call him Wheezy) who saw exactly what was really at the core of everything I was saying one night. I was all over the place and he out of no where just said, “when’s the last time you were really around people?” My answer “who the hell knows? I spend all day with a screaming child.” Wheezy then pointed out truth to me. Truth of who I was. Truth of who I am meant to be. Truth of who I am to him and truth of who I am to Jesus.
At the end of that weekend, I found myself in a prayer of repentance. Repentance of isolation. Yeah that’s right. I needed to repent. And it’s a really humbling moment to sit with your campus pastor and worship director and have to confess this is where I had been leading from. But to be met with grace by two people who know me and loved me was a breath of fresh air.
Isolation and insecurity are sins! They are sinful acts against God. They are sinful acts that hurt the heart of God. They are believing the enemy and telling Jesus that He is not true and not faithful. If you’re isolating from people, I will guarantee you’re isolating from God. I for sure was.
We are a people in need of community. I didn’t need friends just for the sake of it. If you are in a community that is actually damaging to you, get out and find a new one. I needed people who loved me and could speak the truth of Jesus to me. People who hear His voice and speak it to me when I can’t hear it for myself. I needed to be close to Jesus and close to His heart.
If you find yourself isolating and alone, please get out. Repent of the sin and find people who can speak truth to you. Be intentional and around people. It matters. It matters. It matters.
I’m free in large part because Jesus placed people around me. And more importantly cause He made Himself known to me. I am in real community with Him.
I’ve been a Christ follower for several years now but I was a little off in my walk. I derived much of my hearing from Jesus by listening to others around me. While needed and I just spent most of the chapter talking about that, it was also part of the problem. I needed community with Jesus more than anything else.
The door opened wide to the enemy because I didn’t dive into community around me. But even fuller because when the voice of Jesus didn’t happen through my friends and leaders, I didn’t know how to hear and be with Him for myself. It got deathly silent. Since this revelation, all that time ago, a lot has happened. I hit another huge bump with this when my son was born 2 years later and my family moved to Cincinnati. Bouts of isolation and huge upheaval in the church. (We had moved to launch another campus.) And actually today I am no longer a part of that church and many of those friends have all moved. My family included. For a couple months after this move, I was again at home alone with the kids most of the day.
But I am not who I was then. I am not only secure in who I am in Jesus, but I can hear His voice for myself and experience Him alone. I talk to Him. I learn from Him. I spend time with Him. I am not reliant on others to hear Him. I also know how to be in community better. Even when I am seemingly alone.
My bout with this in Cincinnati was easier to get through. I more quickly drew people into my situation and stepped out of isolation. But the main kicker was I drew Jesus into my situation. He speaks louder to me than I ever let Him before. He comforts me in hard times. He is the first I go to. So now in a new place again, I am not even feeling the strength of isolation like I once did.
So I reiterate. Find a great community who loves Jesus and can lead you closer to him and speak his truth to you. It’s the first thing my wife and I decided to do when the doors of our Cincinnati campus closed and when we moved to North Carolina. We have dove into, as best we can, getting into a new church community. We made it a priority for us and for our kids. It’s not an easy thing to do, but slowly and surely we are getting real community around us. Even at my new job, I have people who I can have real life, truth conversations with.
But you want to make sure you are close to Him. He stands firm in the gap when others aren’t around. He never leaves or fails. Listen for him.