Last night, I drove to what seemed like the middle of nowhere (east Mesa) for a Sunday-evening church service at Generations Church. I attended on the recommendation of a friend, and I’m glad I did. It seemed like a good community, and I will certainly check it out again. I know the lead Pastor a little bit, and I’ve known his wife for half of my life. They’re good people, and I trust them, which is half of the battle.
I want to write a bit about a part of the message that spoke to me personally.
The sermon hinged on the idea that we are better together than we are as individuals, and that the support we can lend each other–both in our faith and in our lives–is what makes a community strong and whole. This is obvious, of course. But it wasn’t always obvious to me. As I’ve written before, I used to think of myself as a man apart; I was prideful and self-reliant, and I knew that the only things I needed to get myself through a tough time were my own guile and guts.
Then something truly difficult came along, a personal loss, and I absolutely, with 100% certainty, could not survive it alone.
My struggle was partly because of the loss, but also partly because my support system of friends and family and faith was in a state of disrepair. My friends were scattered, and my relationships with them were casual and tentative. My family is very small, and we have never been big talkers. And my faith was . . . neglected at best, non-existent at worst.
I felt as though no one had my back, and I felt more alone than I have ever felt. I wasn’t even close to ready to tackle a real problem. It’s a cliche image, but I felt as though I was trapped at the bottom of a hole in the dark, and I had naught to do but shout into the darkness.
In the end, I came to understand that only through being honest and open with friends and family could I rebuild those relationships, and only through jumping into faith with both feet could I find what I needed from God. My entire life, I’ve given the bare minimum of myself to people; I committed and contributed the minimum required in order to maintain a relationship. When I say that I’ve been closed off to the world, that is what I mean. I shut the world out by giving little of myself, and keeping the rest bottled inside.
It was a struggle to both understand and apply that idea.
I do not excel at sharing of myself, particularly when I talk to people. I’m much better here, in a writing space, where I can spill thoughts to no one in particular. Even today, I am still hesitant to tell people what I’m thinking, or feeling, or needing. But I’m getting better.
I’m also getting better about being myself in the presence of God and within a church setting. It still makes me uncomfortable at times; even though I know I have nothing about which to be ashamed, I still feel the urge to put up shields. I still feel the shyness of a man who keeps his hands in his pockets and his head tilted towards the ground.
Pastor Ryan posed a question to the congregation last night: Are you ready for a fall? Several months ago, I would have thought the answer was yes, of course. Then I found out how wrong I was. I had to build a foundation–my support group–in the dark. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. But I did it, and I know what those relationships mean to me now. I cannot survive without them: my friends that I choose to make family, and my family that I choose to make friends, and my God most of all.
I will never really be a social butterfly. It’s not in my nature. But now I know who to trust, and how to trust them. When my next season of doubt and hardship come, I will be ready in a way I never understood before.