It’s crucial to recognize when community is legit, when the people are dependable and want what’s best for you. Check out these 3 ways to know when community is the real deal, when it’s something you can step into with a newfound confidence.
“Find community.” You hear this over and over behind the pulpit; you see it every week in a Louie Giglio tweet. Community is your spiritual lifeblood Monday through Saturday, the people who encourage you along the straight and narrow. They throw confetti at your victories and bring tissues to your defeats. Your tribe, your people, your confidants. Community.
It’s crucial to recognize when community is legit, when the people are dependable and want what’s best for you. Sometimes, that’s not easy to pin down because we’ve trusted others who never honored their word. Or we’ve always kept to ourselves, afraid that loyalty means nothing to no one these days.
Both are possible. Both are understandable. But neither offers the consistent support you need to thrive day in and day out. If you don’t have community, whether from skepticism or a hurtful experience, check out these 3 ways to know when community is the real deal, when it’s something you can step into with a newfound confidence:
1. Communication Isn’t a One-way Street
On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. Obviously, communication is vital to relationships, but we often peg this concept of consistent back and forth talks with romantic relationships. We let things slide when our friend hasn’t gone out with us for coffee in months, but if the guy we like hasn’t texted us in a matter of hours, we panic. We question their intentions. Our thoughts take a dark turn. We panic.
This drama doesn’t stem from unbalanced hormones (though that wouldn’t help), but it’s birthed from the fear of losing what’s important, losing a person you always planned to count on. In theory, that’s the weight that community should hold as well.
Granted, this doesn’t mean that your small group has to bring you a white chocolate mocha every day of the week, nor do they have to text you non-stop, but it does mean that your people are present enough that you can count on them. You’re not left questioning intentions, left sitting in the dark, left to the demise of panicking thoughts.
They speak up. In-person or via the digital world. And they let you know that you matter.
2. They Balance Praise and (Healthy) Criticism
Someone recently asked me how I knew I’d found the right therapist, questioning the key signs that this sort of doctor was the right fit for me. My answer was simple: she not only lived out my same Christian principles, but she also knew how to support me in a way that consisted of both encouragement and tough love.
Same goes for your Bible study group, your close girlfriends, your small group, your community. A true community cares enough to implement both kindness and concern, a heartfelt desire to celebrate your seasons of plenty, but also a gentle, determined desire to see you trudge forward in your seasons of empty.
And their desires follow through with actions. They’ll show up with balloons when you get the promotion, get the ring, get the positive pregnancy test, but they’ll also stop by with ice cream and chocolates when you’re skipped over, when you’re left alone, when the tests are failing. And sitting over that bucket of ice cream, they’ll look you in the eyes and say, “You’re worth showing up again.” They’ll text you the next morning and ask, “Have you fed yourself?” They’ll take you by the hand and say, “You need to get out of the house. Let’s go.”
They show up. When it’s good and when it’s bad. And they remind you that they’re there.
3. They're There for the Ordinary
True community shows up when things are hard and when things are bliss--but they’re also there in the middle of nothing new.
Lots of people come out of nowhere when you win big, taking part in your parade, stuffing streamers and sparklers in their pockets when they can. Even more people envelop your space when stuff goes wrong, some out of an obligated concern, others out of sheer nosiness. But true community, real friends, show up on the simple days that hold no promise, offer no benefits for themselves.
I think that’s one of my favorite parts of the Gospels, watching Jesus show up on the simplest of days, finding the most ordinary people, meeting them in routine spaces. He found an adulteress at a well and Peter on his boat. Jesus went to the spaces and places that no one else cares to seek out because they’re too mundane. He chose soul over show. And you have the right to hold your community to that same standard.
That doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect... you can never expect human beings to navigate relationships with utmost excellence, but you can anticipate they’ll be there when your journey asks something of them with no guaranteed returns.
Trust me, they suit up for all of your life phases. When things are not only good, not only bad, but mundane, non-beneficial, reaping no rewards for them. That’s how you know they care.
These days, I’m wary of many church cliches, slogans, or bumper-sticker catchphrases. They’re often cheesy, overused, or shallow. But this idea of community? I completely agree. You have to actively pursue a core group of like-minded believers who will be present-day in and day out, when things are good, bad, and boring. When communication is tough. When tough love isn’t fun. When fun doesn’t mean they’re the ones walking away with the trophy.
If you think about it, when Jesus began His ministry, the first thing He did was find 12 men to abide with Him. The disciples needed Him, but I think Jesus simply wanted them to be in His life. Embodying human form, Christ also longed for believers to be in His presence, whether He was casting out demons or sending them to find fish and bread to feed a crowd.
He wanted community, so why do we think, as meager mortals, that we don’t need it for spiritual survival?
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Theerapong28
Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves showcasing God's beauty from ash. Check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, Where Exhaustion and Exile Meet God, to discover how your cup can overflow—even in dry seasons. Meanwhile, follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland for more insight into her writing and the terrors of raising gremlin dogs.
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