Why I Need Community

By Christine Bailey

I drove down the winding country road, sunroof open, worship music blaring, smile on my face and singing at the top of my lungs. You’d think I was on a joyride or something…or at least on the way someplace fun like a friend’s house or coffee shop.

If you’d driven past me on that country road, you’d never have known I was on my way to a sterile medical building to have a nerve-wracking test done, something I had dreaded for months. So why was I so happily singing worship music while cruising down a country road?

Fast forward to the day before when I’d sent an “SOS” Voxer message across the ocean to one of my closest girlfriends who just moved to England: Will you pray for me during this test? I’m trying not to worry but it’s just scary. I’ll feel so much better knowing you’re covering me in prayer. “Of course,” she eagerly agreed, and said she’d pray for God’s voice to be louder than my fears. She added, “Play worship music the whole way there to help keep your heart in the right place.”

I hadn’t thought about that. Without her simple suggestion (or loving command), I would have fretted the whole way, heart thumping rapidly before I even entered the building. Instead, I walked in that building actually joyful, my heart buoyed by truth and the prayers of my friend.

The other close girlfriends in my community were covering me, too. One offered to go with me. One sent an encouraging text at the exact minute my appointment started. They all prayed this Scripture over me: “You will keep in perfect peace whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) They stood in the gap for me, holding virtual hands around my life for a few hours on a Monday morning.

In his classic book, Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller says, “There is an entire world inside yourself, and if you let yourself, you can get so deep inside it you will forget the way to the surface. Other people keep our souls alive, just like food and water does with our body.”

As an introvert who tends to retreat inside herself instead of ask for help, I’ve known this to be true. But a community of close friends who are seeking after Jesus together and are gut-wrenchingly honest with each other feeds us in the deepest ways…

Community coaxes us outside of ourselves.

Community helps dispel fear.

Community reminds us of truth and helps keep our souls alive.

Community also brings lightness to our days. Well, at least mine does. We’re not afraid to share heavy things like scary medical tests, but they can also make me silent-cry-laugh until I can barely breathe. We share our regular lists of “What’s saving our lives right now,” from the silly stuff to things that are literally saving our lives.

Community allows me to text to a girlfriend one afternoon: “I don’t want to be a grownup. I just want to spend my life daydreaming and on Pinterest and drinking coffee and tea and reading books. Is that so bad?” And that friend answers, “Me too! Soooo, what’s going on right now that’s making you feel that way?”

Community helps our home life. When I first became a mother, community with other new moms became absolutely essential to survival. My friend Bre lived two blocks down and around the corner, and it was like an actual lifeline was strung between my house and hers. She gave birth to her son two weeks after I had my first daughter. There we were with our fresh babies, no sleep, and husbands both running their own businesses. If either of us was needing company and support that day, the other would arrive with a baby strapped to her chest. We’d take a walk around the block to get our little ones and our own sleep-deprived minds some fresh air. We shared craft ideas and sewing supplies and let our babies nap on our chests while we discussed books and food and ideas for how we could start our own fun side businesses. Other members of my community who were single came over to hold my baby or fold my laundry or just provide adult conversation. When my husband came home, my cup was actually filled on those days vs. other days when I’d stayed isolated and counted down the minutes for him to arrive.

Now, we have two small daughters, and our little family of four absolutely loves spending time together. But it’s also healthy for my husband and I to each have life-giving friendships outside of our marriage, men and women respectively who bolster us and encourage us in Christ, and vice versa. Our children can learn from this, too, as they see the importance of true Christ-centered friendship. I’m a much healthier and more engaged mama when I’ve had time with my community.

Throughout the 12 years of our marriage thus far, our community has walked with my husband and I through serious financial problems, broken relationships, business struggles, and major life upheaval. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because what I’ve found is this:

Community is not a group of faceless strangers in the same building on a Sunday morning.

Community is not a place where fear is welcomed.

Community is not afraid of silence, or tears, or anger, or pain.

Community is not a one-way street.

Community is not impatient while God works.

Community is not a place where the work is ever “done.”

Community is not in the business of letting its people struggle without fighting for their freedom.

Community is the model Christ set for us.

Said the Apostle Paul,

“In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.” (from Ephesians 4, The Message)

While my community (and my gracious husband) loves me despite my failings, they encourage me to keep growing…

“No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” (from Ephesians 4, The Message)

~ ~ ~

To my huge relief and gratefulness, my medical test turned out fine. Normal. Nothing to worry about. It could easily have gone the other way, though. If it had, I know for sure who would’ve had my back.

And that is why I need community.