Relationships of ALL types grow our faith. I was recently reminded of this as I sat listening to a diverse group of women share their hearts in my church’s community group. God continues to show me the power of community, particularly the kind that happens without my manipulation and control. I was shown that I serve a God who is far bigger than my tiny homogenous world I try to construct.
Why do I put my energies into creating an inner circle of “perfect” friends so that I can live in a Christian version of a TV show where everyone effortlessly shares all of life’s intimate moments from the sacred to the hilarious? I can easily convince myself that the Gospel has something to do with being surrounded by people who are exactly like me. I don’t think we can escape living in a broken world, but I want to wade through this life with people who have the same budget as me, have kids the same age, and have the same sense of humor and style. They must also duplicate the exact same beliefs as me. Their theology, language, and Christian sub-culture must mimic mine. I simply want it to be easy.
It is a fact that God made us for community. We all desire to be accepted and we all have needs that are met through relationships in our lives.
But there is this blurry line that is hard to see when we cross it. There’s this place we can end up where we have shut out people that God places in our paths for specific reasons, whether to be an influence or to grow us. When you surround yourself with people who are just like you, you are validated, praised, and admired just the way you want to be. But I am seeing that God leads people into our lives for His purpose, not our own.
Recently, new relationships in my life are with people who are not just like me. They have different backgrounds, beliefs, ways of life, and priorities, and many are in a different season of life. I find myself struggling to relate. I want them to “get” me without putting in effort. I want to halfway explain something and then say “y’all know what I mean” and have them automatically and thoroughly understand the depths of my soul. This limits spiritual, emotional, and mental growth.
Isn’t it better to allow ourselves to be stretched and to allow God to show us things through others who have seen life through a totally different lens? Knowing where people are entails us actually taking the time to get to know them, and then caring enough not to force them to see things our way. When I do this, I am changed.
In this small group of women, I hear someone praying in a foreign language and am reminded that God hears the prayers of all his children around the globe. I witness the excitement of new believers, and, thankfully, it rubs off on me.
Above all else, we are to love one another. I am trying to follow this simple command and not whine when no one in my life “gets” me. Whether or not it conveniently fits into the screenplay I’ve naïvely written for my life, that is not really the point of it all. I am called to love my neighbor, no matter who they are. The miracle is that I end up on the receiving end as well, oftentimes receiving more than I give.
AMEN! Lately, it’s been the new people that God has brought into my circle that have taught me the most about myself and about others. I am thankful for the diverse community of sisters that God has given to me. Blessings!
Yes! Thanks, Barbie. It’s always crazy how much you see about yourself when you let yourself come out around people that are different than you.
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
Love the “y’all” in there southern sister…and yes, God does stretch us and grow us through relationships with others who don’t just naturally get us. God makes believers (and non-believers) in all shapes, sizes and nationalities. How can we be salt and light in our world if we only hang with those just like us? When God stretches me, my faith in Him grows. Thank you for a wonderful and thought provoking post!
So true, Bev. Thanks for your words. I have learned quite a bit about myself in this season. I see things that I never would have seen in less diverse group of women.
Really inspiring article. I totally agree that new people, that feel, think and believe differently than we do can help a lot in making us grow and become fuller people.
Thanks, Ken. You are so right!
Mark Slavik says
Great article Claire! So cool to see someone I know writing such truth! Can’t wait to see y’all next month!
Thanks, Mark! Us too- cannot wait:)
Very true Claire, I am impressed
Thank you! Much love:)
Dawn B. says
Wow! I was reminded again that everything in this life is not all about me! I recently joined a ladies “Life Group” and was disappointed when I walked in and there was “no one just like me.” I thought I would be polite and bow out of the group gracefully, never to return. While driving home from the group, I felt the Lord gently whisper to me… “get over yourself, you wanted community and fellowship and this is where I have placed you.” I get it!
Wow! I have felt that way exactly before. It is so easy to think that it is all about us. Thanks for your comment.
Ro elliott says
Isn’t it better to allow ourselves to be stretched and to allow God to show us things through others who have seen life through a totally different lens? This one….I am well into my 50s … And I find myself at this very place…with out all the details…I am coming out of a very narrow….closed group…where thinking…believing…acting alike was paramount and we we derived our security. But now God is surrounding me people of such variety…and I know I am going to learn more about Christ…myself than I have in the past 20 yrs. this does undo me at times…but I am excited too…because God is the great redeemer and He is redeeming all thing…beauty for ashes….thanks for this…this encourages me right where I am….blessings and grace to you~
Thanks so much for your words. I am so glad it was an encouragement to you. I think so many of us find ourselves in that place at times.
I love this! It’s hard to step outside my comfort zone and make the effort to get to know people different from me but it’s always worth it. Your words that we grow and are stretched by those who cross our paths is so true. Thanks for sharing your well-thought and very articulate post!
Thanks so much for your encouragement. I am glad it spoke to you!
Beautifully written and received. Thanks for sharing your heart to mine. God bless this day to His full utmost glory in all our lives. Shalom.
Thank you, Deborah. I appreciate that!
Tough call. I’ve done it but it was hard to get along with people who are not like me at all. When asked just yesterday about this with non – Christians, I told the lady when they don’t get me, I turn off by putting on my headphones and let them squabble about it all among themselves.
With believers it’s tough as you can’t really turn off. Though it’s the better option I favour.
How do we all get along. I have no idea. I only know the early church had problems as well. I’ve got to the point of someone does not get me, I can turn and the LORD gets me. O I’m so selfish.
Loretta Owens says
As humans, I think we all feel or have felt this way. It is comfortable that we seek. Most of think of ourselves as adventurers yet we crave comfort. But ironic how we find the most joy when we give control over to the Lord and allow Him to lead and guide. I must admit that after 68 years on this Earth, I still struggle with this but can tell you that when I “let go and let God”, I have grown the most and experienced joy unspeakable and full of glory. Stay strong in the faith my sisters and one day we will reap together forever
Patty Muich says
Wondering if we like the groups ‘Just like me’ so when we forget and compare ourselves with them we don’t fall short.
I joined an (in) courage group this Fall and was scared as I am the one that is always different. The first couple of weeks were tough as we introduced ourselves and got to know each other. Everyday I felt that I fell short.
Then I started getting to know them better and found that this one shared my feelings on one subject. And this one had the very same experience as I did. And another one had the very same fears.
The group that I KNEW was so different than me… really wasn’t different than me at all! and I think we will stay together as friends when the group ends. 🙂 Awesome!!
People from different circumstances are so refreshing. They make you examine life and spirituality from a different perspective which stretches you and makes you grow. Paul said he had become “all things to all people”. How can we do that when we stick with people who are just like us. I have a new employee who didn’t grow up in a Christian family and has come to know the Lord in the last few years. I love her fresh approach and enthusiasm!
Paula McLane Jennings says
GREAT ARTICLE. One I think that is important for us all as well as for our churches.
Lee McCracken says
A very important message for all women! We grow outside the lines of our common lives. Sharing this (posted by (in)courage) on FB at Joyfullee Written.
Holle Gerth says
Thanks for the loving challenge to stretch out beyond our comfort zones!
Beth Williams says
I love meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds. I find I learn a lot about them, myself and life. God made us for community to love one another no matter what.
I work at a university health clinic and we see all cultures and types of people–professional, students, black, white, Muslim, Chinese, etc. We also deal with diverse backgrounds–Christian, non-Christian, LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual & Transgender). We just treat each person with the same respect that we would want to be treated with.
It can be hard to go outside the norm/comfort zone. But when done it stretches you and so much more is gained and learned.
AMEN to this post! 🙂