Friday, November 06, 2015
THE HEALING POWER OF COMMUNITY
Sometimes I think God hammers me over the head with something until I get it.
That’s what’s been happening with me lately.
First, I started noticing a pattern in the conversations I was having with all sorts of people. The pattern that started to form was the common denominator in every conversation. Eventually I saw a video clip that, at first glance, had nothing to do with the pattern, until the very end. That’s when I realized that God was trying to show me something profound.
First, take a look at this video. It’s about addiction – which is not the subject that God has been talking to me about – but near the end the narrator says something that most certainly does relate to the concept.
Take a look:
Hopefully you’ve watched the video and you’ve come across the part where he reveals that one of the strongest weapons against drug addiction is community.
The most powerful part of the video for me was this part:
“Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect. When we are happy and healthy we will bond with the people around us. But when we can’t because we’re traumatized, isolated or beaten down by life, we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief. It might be checking our smart phones constantly. It might be pornography. It might be gambling, etc. but we will bond with something because that is our human nature. The path out of unhealthy bonding is to form healthy bonds - to be connected to people who you want to be present with. Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that’s happening all around us. We all feel it. “
And the absolute best quote of all is this one:
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
I would like to substitute the word “community” for “connection”.
In almost every single conversation I have had with various people over the last few months, the theme of community, and the evidence that what people need more than anything else is community, has been unmistakable.
Some of these were conversations with homeless people, others were conversations with small business owners and with self-employed entrepreneurs. Some of these people were lifelong friends and some of them were practically strangers to me. But in every case the solution to their inner struggle was to find a community of people who would love them for who they are and provide a stable support system for them when they felt weak, or lonely, or tempted to return to bad habits.
What does all this mean? It means that the Ekklesia of Christ is what people are looking for most. They all want, and desperately need, a place to belong. They crave a true family of people who will offer love and acceptance. They are dying to find a community of support and faith that gathers around Jesus and looks to Him for love, hope, relief and peace.
Bottom line: We were not made to survive alone. Community is what connects us to life. Ekklesia is what connects us to Jesus and to one another.
Sadly, the barriers to finding community are numerous. Many people are surrounded by those who would love to welcome them and embrace them into a community of faith, but for various reasons these people cannot – or will not – make the decisions necessary to prioritize community over work, or sleep, or convenience.
That’s been the most frustrating thing for me, honestly. I’ve listened to these different people as they share their brokenness and I see how being surrounded by a loving community of fellow Christians would alleviate their suffering and propel them into a healthier lifestyle. But in nearly every case the person has one excuse or the other about why they must remain alone, or isolated. In some cases the person is reaching out for community but is constantly sabotaged by an unrealistic expectation of perfection in other people. So, when people within a community prove to be flawed, that’s enough for them to justify disengagement.
What I’d love to do is to connect all of these different people to one another, or to help them discover a community of believers who could help them to see and experience the presence of Jesus more powerfully. But as desperate as some people are for community and connection, the truth is that there is a cost and sadly many are not willing to give up what they have to realize it.
What I’m learning is that Ekklesia as God designed it is exactly what people need to be happy and healthy and productive. But at the same time, there is an Enemy who works day and night to place roadblocks and obstacles in the way to make sure they never actually get connected to Christ through His Body.
Loneliness is a powerful weapon. It crushes people. It strips them of the connections they need for life. It can even kill someone with enough sustained exposure.
Yes, loneliness is powerful. The only thing more powerful than loneliness is love.
My prayer is that those who need love most will have the courage to do whatever it takes to find connection and to experience the community of Christ before it’s too late.