When we gather…

Last week I enjoyed the community of women. We gathered around a meal and shared our lives, our joys, our struggles. We talked, we ate, and we opened our lives to one another. There is a special magic that happens when women come together intent on building community.

Community is built with courage and intention. We don’t come together without fear and frustrations. We know the cost of sharing our lives, but we have determined that the value of community outweighs the cost. Not one of us comes to the table without knowing the vulnerability inherent in the sharing. We know, because we have paid the price… hearts bruised and broken by sharp words, judgement, criticism, and failure. Each of us both givers and receivers of the lashes… and yet we gather.

Authentic relationships bring lives together in unpredictable ways. When we shelter behind high walls, removed and isolated from one another a look, a word, an awkward interaction can seem proof of the danger and the cost. When we step timidly into community, we hope and fear because we we will be seen. We hope that someone will whisper, “Yes, me too.” We fear that they will shrug and declare, “No, not me. How could you?” We yearn to belong, to be loved, to fit in… to find that we are not alone. Our wounded hearts feel every interaction with great intensity and we fear that we won’t… and we hope that we will… be loved.

Last week I enjoyed the company of women who struggle. We risked our hearts to one another. We opened up areas of confusion and pain. The ministry of presence, of being together in the difficult places, offered comfort and companionship. Life is hard. We move forward toward unclear futures, hoping we are choosing rightly. We move out into a broken world, hoping to bring light and love. We move through times of discouragement, hoping for the courage for one more day. And through the tears and the acknowledgment, we find ourselves restored, encouraged, and steadied.

On Sunday morning we nod and smile and make small talk with one another, but when we gather in this space we risk truth. Marriages are vulnerable and difficult. Children wear against our hearts. Life moves too fast and hard to catch our breath. Multiple responsibilities press against our hearts. We fear we are losing some essential part of ourselves in the process… but here, in this space we give words to possibilities and to dreams. Here we dare to dream and find co-collaborators to encourage our hopes and pray for our barely articulated dreams.

Last week I enjoyed the company of women who live. We step into our lives and create, we dare to care, to engage the broken world all around us. We look for ways to lift and affirm life, to touch and encourage hope, to birth joy and laughter… to love. We are growing in community, we are engaging the world with our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our lives. We pour out ourselves in service as mothers, wives, teachers, sisters, leaders, daughters, creators, and givers because service and love is the way of the One who calls us His own. And we are alive.

We gather at the table to reaffirm the grace, the hope, and the possibilities of life as women. As we leave the table, we find that we are filled. We risked the opening of our lives and found understanding. We risked the opening of our doubts and were renewed in our faith. We risked the dark places in our lives and found that light filled us. We risked… and we found love.

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