By contributing writer Ami:
“Stop saying you’re sorry. You say it all the time.”
“I do? Oh, I’m sorry.”
Their looks said it all. Then we dissolved into laughter.
“Seriously though, you don’t need to say you’re sorry; you’ve done nothing wrong. And you say it a lot when you talk about Jon.”
She was right. I thought I talked about him too much. Perhaps my friends were tired of hearing the same stories? Perhaps they were weary of memories replayed?
Somewhere along the way, I’d started to feel self-conscious.
They have their own sorrow. Their grief is fresher. One friend is approaching the year mark, and it’s been merely a couple months for the other. I don’t want to draw attention to my own hurts when they are still in the raw, deep places.
I want to comfort. I want to listen and let them talk (or not talk). I want to help bear the heavy weight, as so many have done for me.
Laughter turned to tears. “But death is so much nearer for you. I should be here for you. I want to carry your grief. So, I shouldn’t talk about my own.”
These priceless friends wouldn’t have it. And this is what they said.
“But it still hurts. And you still need to talk about him. When you grieve with us, it shows us we have freedom to struggle.”
“It’s beautiful that you let people see reality. You’ve never worn a mask, and that gives hope. Jesus takes the junk.”
“Your sorrow is still valid. Your husband died.”
“And you need to remember that this is a safe place. We carry each other.”
“Yeah, I mean we just take turns crying, right? It’s what we do.”
And then we laughed again.
This is community, the friends who carry the crushing burdens together. We laugh until our sides hurt. We weep together. We’re family.
My friends weren’t intentional teachers that day, but their words have stuck with me.
“Stop saying you’re sorry.”
For me that means, don’t make “I’m sorry” a defense mechanism. Don’t use it to put up walls or change the subject. Sometimes I use “I’m sorry” when I think I’m the only one who struggles. And that is just a lie
“I’m sorry” is for asking forgiveness. The words exist in conjunction with “I was wrong.” They are for turning from sin, but they are not for talking about struggle. For when I use them in that context, I rob others the opportunity to bless.
Loving one another is mutual care, compassion, and sacrifice. It is speaking the truth in love. It is serving. But sometimes it’s a willingness to be served. It’s giving and receiving.
Community- It means I can stop saying I’m sorry.
According to Webster, community is “a group of people who live near each other, or have a particular characteristic in common.” Communities rally around a plethora of interests- sports, board games, causes, trends, pop culture, you name it. Yet these are shadows.
True community exists when Christ is the focus. Jesus called it His body. (I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 5) A body’s parts are woven together, utterly dependent on the others for the good of the whole. One part can’t hurt without the entire body feeling it. One part can’t rejoice without the entire body rejoicing also. Like a physical body, each part needs the rest.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored all rejoice together.” (I Corinthians 12:26).
True community runs deeper than exchanging pleasantries once a week at worship gathering. It’s more than potlucks. It’s even more than prayer meetings. Christ-driven community exists when we’re willing to get dirty, be vulnerable, do ugly, and stay in the mess for as long as it takes.
…meets each other’s needs (Acts 4:32)
This looks like actually knowing the need and doing something about it. It could be groceries, a box of kleenexes, or merely a listening ear. It could be a single mom arriving home to a freshly made bed with clean sheets.
…speaks the gospel (Galatians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 15)
This is what my friends did for me. “Jesus takes the junk.” Sometimes we need others to tell us truth when we struggle to tell ourselves. This looks like speaking the realities of reconciliation, adoption, redemption into each others’ lives.
…takes off the masks (James 5:16, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Folks who dwell in real community know it’s okay to struggle and to let others see the struggle. Because Jesus was perfect, we don’t have to be. Grace says there is freedom to be weak.
…reconciles with each other (Ephesians 4:32)
If I am part the body of Christ, then refusing to reconcile would be like cutting off my own arm. Enough said.
…prays for one another (Acts 1:14, James 5:16)
…loves one another (I John 3:11, John 13)
This is the love that sacrifices, that gives, and puts its own selfishness aside.
…bears burdens together (Galatians 6:2)
This is the devastating load that is too big for one to bear alone.
…knows it’s a family (2 Thessalonians 1:3, Hebrews 2:11)
One of my favorite things is “family night.” Most of my community group doesn’t have blood family in town, but we still have family. Each week we take turns cooking dinner for “the family.” We sit around the table and dive into each other lives. I need these people. And I think it’s safe to say we’d take bullets if it came to that.
Viewed this way, community is no longer an obligation or an “extra thing.” Rather it’s necessary for my spiritual health. I need others to point out my blind spots.
True Community fosters God’s intended plan for the church- a family, woven tightly together, a body interconnected and interdependent.