BY STEPHANIE COOK, GRACE ATTENDER & BLOGGER
By a show of hands, who here has ever stood in a room, full of people, and felt utterly alone?
Don’t be shy. I know you have. Raise that hand high for the world to see.
This step is important, because I believe that our loneliness has the capacity to dictate our feelings of self worth in a significantly negative way. Making that physical gesture to show everyone - not the least of which is yourself - that you exist, that you have a voice, and that you matter is critical.
There it is. I see it now. It’s up. No higher than your shoulder, but up nonetheless. Im proud of you. Admitting your loneliness may only be the first step, but it can definitely be a doozy.
Are you feeling a bit exposed? Raw? Vulnerable? (Gasp - that last one was practically a dirty word). Don’t panic. That means you are doing it RIGHT.
And chances are you SURVIVED this first step into the unknown.
Now, let’s think about that crowded room. Your room. Set the scene for me. Give me the who, what, where, when, and why. But before you answer, let me give you license to think outside of the box. What if your room isn’t necessarily a room, but an entire season of your journey? Or what if your room IS a room, but you feel like you never left?
Chances are this room of yours is now a part of the fabric of your story. The way in which your loneliness unfolded and was -or wasn't- dealt with has weight. It can be the small foothold needed for lies to take root in our heart and mind.
You are inadequate. You are unloved. You are disposable. You have no voice. No platform. No testimony. You are alone.
Don’t worry - you don’t have to put your hand up again.
But I know you have felt the lies. I can see the weariness on your face. They have been heavy. Exhausting. Too much to carry, but too often you were left to shoulder it alone.
My room came during the middle of chemotherapy.
Two years into my physical suffering, and three grueling months into the pursuit of healing, I felt overwhelmed.
The shock of my situation - being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at only 23 years old - had worn off. Tears had been shed, questions asked and answered, and treatment for a very curable disease was well underway.
It was now safe to move about the cabin.
But I still had my oxygen mask on, fearing the crash landing we had all been talking about together not two months prior.
I was still fighting for life. Surrounded, but lost.
What I needed, more than anything else, was someone to come along and ask me the hard questions. To listen and to help me process the challenges I faced.
How are you doing through all of this?
How have your relationships changed through this trial?
In what ways has your faith been tested?
Where have you witnessed God working among the ashes?
What has been the heaviest part of this journey?
Are you ok?
Spoiler alert. These aren’t actually hard questions. But they are crucial ones, and they only brush the surface of what we should be asking each other.
This is the story of what has become of our society. Surrounded, but alone. Seen, but not known.
Community is now a relic. An idea - once the very foundation that everything else was built on - that has not survived.
In this loss, we have been left standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers - given only carefully cropped snapshots of who they really are. Afraid to ask for more. Afraid of giving too much.
I invite you now to imagine a much different scene, though.
The room you enter has the glow and warmth of home. A place you are fully known and fully loved - unconditionally. As you walk into the softly lit space, you see first the long, wooden table. Heavy and weathered. Its nicks, scratches, and stains a story of generations passed. Of life lived fully and deeply.
Each place setting is unique. Each set ahead of time for a uniquely special guest. While the china patterns are different, and the tarnished silver mismatched, they all seamlessly fit together. Every one bringing something beautiful to the table.
The meal has already been prepared, set in the center of the table to be shared by family.
As you take it all in, you see the people who fill your days step out of the darkness and walk up to the table, taking a seat at the place they know has been set for them. Around this table of life.
The faces looking back at you are that of your spouse, your parents, and siblings, your small group members, your coworkers, your bus driver, your classmates. It’s the faces of those you know well, and those you have yet to know at all.
Here, there is no need to hide. No need to run. No need to fear the lies that once threatened you in the darkness. You are both known and loved by the community for which Christ blessed you. And there is only room for the promises He has in store.
This is the room that Christ calls you to. And for each of us, it waits on the other side of our fear of vulnerability. Our fear of exposure and rejection. Our hesitation to share too much.
It waits on the other side of the questions you aren’t asking. The people you aren’t reaching out to. The opportunities for true connection that you are allowing to slip by.
Community awaits for us all. And it starts with you.
Take the First Step Toward Community
This might feel scary at first, but it's worth it! To feel known and loved by a community can make all the difference in the world. And, we, followers of Christ, don't want you to feel alone. We WANT to know you, walk with you, sit with you when your crying, laugh with you, and do life with you. And there are two easy ways to start:
1. Come to Church.
We know that coming to church for the first time might be difficult. You may have past hurts or doubts, but just know you're welcome and we WANT you here! While our Livestream services provide a great way to worship if you're gone for the week, there is nothing like worshiping together in person. If you're thinking about coming to church for the first time this weekend, click here. This weekend, Dave is talking about COMMUNITY so you won't want to miss it! When you get here, make sure you go to the Info Center so staff and volunteers can meet you. And, if you're feeling really brave, talk to the person you're sitting next to in service!
2. Join a Group.
Rooted is a great place to start if you're looking for community. It's a 10-week small group with three additional experiences (serving, praying, and caps off with a celebration!). These groups are a great way to dive deeper in your faith (even if you're not sure about your faith) and find a community who will love and support you. Learn more here.