Saturday was the day.
I was excited and afraid.
I was looking forward to having my friends surround me as we worshipped together and learned about sharing our stories.
I was trying to think positively because I had invited over 90 women (real life friend and family) to come and worship with me. While I knew that the majority of them would not, I still worked hard to make it a day to remember.
It was a good day with my mother and my sister, but I was hurt, disappointed and angered when no one else came. I was left feeling invisible and like I didn’t matter, like I wasn’t important to these people, but it wasn’t just that they didn’t come. It was that they didn’t tell me that they weren’t coming.
And so the tears came. It hurts, and since it more or less a frequent occurrence when I try to invite people I feel like giving up.
And part of me has to wonder, “How would they feel if they were faced with the same situation?”
For the past few months, the pastors at the church I have been attending have been preaching on creating community within the church and the importance of doing life together, not just talking on Sundays but during the week as well.
I have been reading about the importance of community online.
And I have been feeling a hunger to belong and feel a part of something.
So I reached out from my comfort zone. I made a plan to open my heart and my home to others and to invite them into community with me.
And I am rejected and a failure (or at least that is how it feels) and left asking myself the question, “What is wrong with me?”
I know that it was a beautiful day here in Missouri and that people are busy. They have families to take care of and gardens to work on. They went out of town or just simply forgot. I know and understand that people have their reasons for not coming, but honestly in the midst of the hurt and disappoint, I don’t care.
Their reasons and their apologies don’t take away the pain. Their carelessness of another person’s feelings makes me angry.
You see, I have always felt like the outcast, like the person who doesn’t fit in. It started in kindergarten and grew worse the older I got until I graduated from high school.
I’m rarely ever invited out with friends. I’m rarely called unless someone needs something like a babysitter so they can go out with their friends. I will decide to have a party or invite someone over and they don’t show up. Many times not even calling.
Or I have people telling me that they want to get together for lunch and never following through.
So after all that when no one showed up on Saturday, I felt like giving up on building community.
I stayed home from church on Sunday because I was afraid that if anyone asked me how things went on Saturday I would say something I didn’t mean or something that I regretted in my pain and my anger.
I feel like giving up on reaching out to others, and after my posts last week on the hunger I feel and how we all need community I get the irony.
I still see that those things are important. I know that I need to be a part of a community. I know that I need to have friends and people that I can rely on.
And I know that even though I feel like giving up I’m not going to give up. I’m going to fight to develop that community.
The question now becomes, “How do I fight? How do I reach out when it seems like all I get is rejection?”
The only answer I can come up with is this: If you get bucked off a horse, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on that horse.
What does this mean in building community?
1) You give the pain and the anger to the Lord.
This is how you pick yourself up. You cry a little and pray a lot. Give the pain to the Lord and ask Him to redeem the situation. You can’t do it yourself. You need Him. I spent a lot of time Sunday crying and praying. Is the hurt and anger completely gone? No, but I am moving forward one step at a time.
2) You forgive so you can move forward.
This is how you dust yourself off. You have to forgive. If you don’t forgive, you can’t move forward, and you become bitter. And in the end, the bitterness will hurt you more than it will ever hurt them. I’ve been there. I’m there now. And forgiveness isn’t a “one time” thing. It is an “every time I think about it” thing. Every single time what hurts you pops into your mind you have a choice to forgive or grow bitter. I’m choosing to forgive.
3) You become more intentional about building community.
You got thrown off that horse. You get right back on it because if you don’t the fear will grow. You got hurt trying to build community. You get right back out there and work on building community because if you don’t the fear will grow. I don’t know what this looks for me at this time. As I was praying about it, the story in Matthew 22 of the wedding feast came to mind. I don’t know if that means that it is time to start over again and find another church or if there is some other lesson I am supposed to get out of it, but either way I will get back out there and work on building community again.
What about you? Have you ever been hurt when trying to build friendships and community within the church? How have you handled it?