Y’all, I think I’m hilarious… the majority of the time. Due to my sanguine personality, stuff just flies out of my mouth before I can catch it and realize, “Uh, don’t say that.” Need examples, ask ANYONE on my staff team. There’s been quite a few doozies this year.
The extraverted, Sanguine-ness can be super fun sometimes. I love being with people. I love adventure. I love hugs. I love quality (and quantity) time with people. I’m always connecting with someone in some capacity. Being the introverts worst nightmare, I often say, “Community is the best kind of unity!” But something has been off…
A few weeks ago I went to grab lunch with a pastor and new friend, Kevin. We have had similar experiences in ministry where we are just naturally gifted and really enjoy ministry-but for whatever reason, have felt deeply alone and depressed.
My first year in Detroit was probably the hardest year of my life since struggling with severe depression 10+ years ago. I found myself in a new ministry context, new culture, new climate (God bless this weather…), new co-workers, new friends, new church and still struggling with navigating healthy family relationships (#adulthood). All this mixed in with feeling a high need to be deeply known almost instantly, led to heightened depression and anxiety. I had not experienced depression like this since before I became a Christian and was knocked back pretty hard by it. I didn’t know you could be a Christian and feel this way, so instantly I felt isolated.
I won’t get into how that manifested itself, but I will share a huge lie I was believing: Christians shouldn’t feel this way. You are supposed to be a leader. Therefore, you cannot let people see this in you.
There was a lot of shame in being open about, “Hey, I’m really struggling to see how God is good in this season.” I personally felt shame because:
- “Christians are supposed to trust God, right? You’re not acting life you’re trusting God voicing your fears.”- I’ve gotten this before. Literally.
- My own thoughts of what a Cru staff member/missionary looks like, right? I have such high standards for what I should be like as a friend, discipler, church goer, Bible study leader, and teammate. I oftentimes feel SUCH guilt when I don’t meet my own standards.
- Who wants to support a missionary who can’t even confidently say 100% of the time, “God is in this; He is for me; and He is good”?
Somewhere between STINT and moving to Detroit, “Community is the best type of unity!” became just another phrase for me. I’ve lived most of my Christian life in deep, authentic, Christ-centered community. Cru was amazing for me in college-friends like Bonnie, Rachel, Lizzy, Aimee, Jasmine, Maury and Jenny were healing balm to my soul. My STINT team, I experienced such hard, sweet, redemptive community that has lead to six years of friendship with seven of the best people on Earth.
Since being in Detroit, I have been really great at connecting with my team and my students, but I have really had a hard time establishing community beyond those two. I don’t think it is because it isn’t out there. I think it is because, for me at least, depression and shame murder intimacy, vulnerability and authentic community.
The past month, the Lord has been graciously showing me my need for the body of Christ and how condemnation has no place in my life. As I sat with Kevin, he asked me about how I was experiencing gospel-centered, loving community. I talked about how I connect with my team, and am always meeting with students, but rarely have peer relationships or even “one up” relationships where I’m being poured into outside of work. Eek. Welp, not saying that is 100% the cause of my depression, but since I do have such a high need to feel valued, known and understood, it makes sense that a lack of community would lead to feeling alone and pretty miserable.
This past Sunday, Woodside taught on belonging and growing with the body of Christ. I was reminded that we need each other. I need people, and people need me. And that’s okay to be needy and to be needed. I took a risk and finally tried out a Neighborhood Group after months of pushing off my need for community. It’s easy leading and creating authentic community for others; it’s another stepping in one to be known and know others.
Yesterday, I was diving into my new favorite book Befriend: Create Belonging In A Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear by Scott Sauls and was reading about the impact shame has on us emotionally and how isolating it is. Highly suggest this read.
Today, as Ashley and I sat in our living room for an extended time with the Lord, I happened to be in 2 John. It’s the book about living in the truth, in love for one another, and in obedience to what God has called us to do: love the body of Christ. I am loving the Lord speaking so clearly to me this past month, calling me to lay down my pride and say: I’m not perfect. My life is a MESS ON SO MANY LEVELS. But, Jesus is perfect. He makes beauty of my ashes. If MESS wasn’t the norm for 100% of fallen people, then Jesus wouldn’t need to redeem or make beauty out of it.
I need Jesus, but I also need the body of Christ. And not on solely on a Great Commission journey/linking arms getting work done, but a “hey, let’s experience the beauty of the gospel and live it out together as we expand the tent of Heaven to the nations.”
So tomorrow, I want to keep diving into loving the body well and allowing the body to love me well. I want to know others and be deeply known, as icky and raw as that feels sometimes, trusting that in Christ rests my identity, all the grace, mercy, and peace that I need to step into the family of God.
Thanks for being a part of this messy journey with me. I’m learning a lot, growing a lot, and as a typical ESFJ, feeling a lot. 😉