I met with my women’s group this morning, as I do every Wednesday. Each week we read and meditate daily on one psalm, then we gather to discuss it. In the process, we share our lives. As we identify with the psalmist’s fear, joy, anger and pain, we tell our own stories, as honestly as we are able. In learning it’s a safe place to share, we get to be heard and feel known. Not everyone in the group calls themselves Christian. We come from different towns, different churches, varying age groups and backgrounds. But we love one another and listen well, without judgment, without trying to fix. We’re all seeking God, and open to his transforming work in us. And we share life’s joys and sorrows by praying for one another. I told them today I wished everyone could have such a community. They help me become my True Self. It is a gift I don’t take for granted. Authentic community is important. And all too rare.
Recently I read that John Wesley said, “There is no such thing as a solitary Christian.” I believe it’s true. The image of the vine and branches from yesterday is still with me. As a branch on the vine, it isn’t enough for me to be filled to the brim with God’s love and keep it to myself. I have to share it. In order to do that I need to be in community. That sometimes feels a little risky. Can I trust God’s love enough to be my True Self with others? What I return to is that I’m only one part of the body. I need others to be healthy. We were created for relationship, and living it out takes courage, perseverance and faith.
Jesus is the model for relationship as well, living in unity with the Father and the Spirit from the beginning. He lived this out for his followers both by example and as he prayed for them. Have you ever noticed that the Lord’s Prayer is in the plural? It’s not just between us and God, it’s about relationships. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.” I get to see his kingdom on earth when I love my neighbor as myself. Turns out we’re all neighbors.
The body of Christ is both frail and glorious. It’s not perfect, but we need one another. And we need to know we’re not alone. We share community with the lonely, the poor, the outcast, the sick, the powerless. People just like us. I want to be transparent enough to be known. I want the encouragement of others praying for me. I need to know how to pray for them. This will happen when and if I dare to practice honesty and intimacy in my faith community. It’s a risk, but it’s so worth it. Ask any woman in my group.
Today’s prayer practice: Praying for true community
Take a moment to be still. Read or recite slowly the Lord’s Prayer, above, really hearing the words. What is your part in this picture? What message does God have for you? Listen. Is there anyone you need to forgive? How might God want to deepen your sense of community? Talk to God or journal about your insights. If you don’t have a faith community, pray about seeking one. If you have a group like mine, thank him for the gift of belonging.