Committing to Community

Those feelings of betrayal and abandonment aren’t as unusual in the church as we’d like to think. In fact, a few months ago I came across a quote from Larry Crabb, the renowned Christian psychologist, that echoes your words. He said, “I’ve been a follower of Christ for more than 50 years, and my testimony is that I’m disillusioned. What I have understood to be a distinctively Christ-centered, biblically informed approach to living does not seem to be transforming me the way I was encouraged to believe it would. I’m appalled, after all these years, at how untransformed I remain.”

I don’t think that the “distinctively Christ-centered, biblically informed approach” to which Crabb refers (nor the “right patterns” that you followed for all those years) are bad things in and of themselves. But when they are offered to us means of redemption, they give us false hopes! I, too, had a well-established routine that I fully believed would keep me healthy and whole and moving on the right path. But when I was taken out of my comfortable context and dropped into the deep end of the mission field, it turned out that what I had believed to be my life-preserver turned into an anchor. Contrary to what I’d been taught, my daily devotions were not keeping me afloat. I even tried walking away from God for a time. Giving up on any hope of help from the divine turned out to be futile.  While I, too, found God to be both silent and absent, His existence could not be denied. That fact didn’t comfort me, it mocked me. Perhaps if I had understood the idea of the apophatic my experience would have been different.

But talk about feeling like a fraud! There I was, a missionary living in France to share the Gospel, while doubting the very God I supposedly came to serve. And what challenged me the most was that my ministry continued to bear fruit. I was in the midst of discipling a woman at the time, and each time I met with her she had a powerful God- encounter. She would be weeping, marvelling at the amazing goodness and grace of God, while I sat there feeling almost like an intruder on the scene. I watched as God wooed and caressed this other woman, leaving me untouched, unmoved, and unconvinced of His interest in me.

For me, the turning point wasn’t new rhythms—those came later. For me the turning point was community. When I came to very end of myself, of all that I thought I could or should be, when I admitted that everything that ever worked for me in the past was no longer working for me in the present, when I surrendered myself to the reality of my plight (Indeed, I am NOT enough!), I found my way home through the community of faith around me. They were my ravens, the ones who fed me in the desert.

I’m dying to hear more about resiliency, and how exactly you went about creating a new mental map. And I’m eager to share more with you how living in community has helped me to rediscover the Love that I lost and embrace the journey of downward mobility.

Thanks so much for telling your story, it’s helping me to put words to my own. Let’s keep it going, friend. I’ve much to learn from you.