Why You Need Community, Especially When Life Gets Hard
A few days ago, I went for a walk on the beach. I'm not much of a beach person, honestly. I hate that feeling of sand getting caked to my feet after stepping into the ocean. And then you get home at night and even though you washed your feet off AND showered, somehow, there's still sand in your bed. Add the fact that my precious pale skin turns red after minutes in the sun, and the beach just isn't my place. I much prefer the cool mountain air and the shade of trees.
But it's the middle of winter and 70 degrees, so I figured I owed it to myself to enjoy such a nice day.
As I walked, I noticed a small flock of sandpipers. They bobbed their cute little heads and walked tentatively toward the water. As soon as a wave came into shore, they'd run backward, afraid to get in the water. I wondered what they were afraid of: the cold, getting swept away? The process repeated itself. The birds would move in and then run back out as soon as the water came close. Finally, one little bird stayed put and let the water rush over its talons. It squawked, and the next wave came and more birds stayed in place until they were all letting the water wash over them.
I realized I had been doing the same thing. When I first walked onto the beach, I got as close to the water as I could without getting my feet wet. Like I said, I HATE having sand crusted to my feet. Gross.
But I've been doing the same thing in a bigger way, too. I've been running after God, but as soon as He gets close, as soon as He tells me what I need to do, what sacrifice I need to make, I run away. See, the Christian life looks great from far away, but when we're faced with hard choices, sometimes, it's easier to run.
I thought about those birds as I continued down the beach, and I thought, Lord, why am I running? I know that life is better with you. I know that anything you ask of me will be for my good. I know that you will be there through anything you ask me to do. So why am I running?
And it's not a deep answer. It's because it's hard. It's because my natural inclination is to sin. It's because there's a battle in the spiritual realm filling my head with lies that life will be better on my own.
Then I realized something else. That one little sandpiper might have stepped out into the water on her own, but she had a whole community behind her. If she failed, if she backed out at the last minute, if the waves tried to take her away, her community would have helped her. None of those things happened, though. Instead, her brave action, stepping forward in faith, changed the entire community in that moment. One bird after another stepped out in faith.
That's what we're called to do. We're called to lead one another. Some days, it's us taking the step forward. Sometimes we follow someone else. Either way, we keep walking toward God and what he has for us. That way, when it gets hard, we have people surrounding us, pushing us toward what matters. It's a lot harder for the darkness to envelop us when we're surrounded by people shining with Jesus' light.
On days when I don't remember who I am, my community can remind me. When I'm too broken and hurt to pray for myself, they can intercede. When I need help moving, they show up and move my couches in about 15 minutes. And when I need to be slapped in the face with the Truth, they're there for that, too. God created us to be in community, created us all uniquely so that we could use our gifts to help each other. We don't have to do any of this on our own.
Before I left the beach, I stood at the water's edge for a while. I still really didn't want to step into the ocean. It was probably cold; I knew my feet would get gross; I had to be back at my conference in an hour. There were a million excuses, but instead of listening to those, I took a step forward and let my feet sink into the sand as the water rushed around my ankles. The wind blew my sweater out behind me, and I felt free.