Well I have been trying to invest in the community I find myself in by:
- Actively engaging with my (actual next-door, or on my road) neighbours - great banter from Maurice next door!
- Joining a netball team to meet new people and widen my community - loving the girls, and the games.
- Being committed to my Church mid-week community group - doing life with these guys every week.
This week at my community group I was leading a part of it. Every week we eat together, pray, worship, share what God might be saying and take communion. Its a pretty relaxed affair and I always leave being pleased that I went.
Last Wednesday I decided to run a little exercise that I learnt from my friends over at XLP. We took part in the "Cup of Kindness".
For anyone getting worried it's not a weird occulty thing. Essentially, everyone gets a post-it and writes their name and something they would like prayer for on it. It goes into the cup and then everyone pulls a name out. Then we went around the room and when it was your turn you had to encourage/praise the person who you had pulled out of the cup and pray for them. The idea is then that everyone has an opportunity to jump in and encourage that person too and then for that one person you pray for them for the whole week.
Now, before when I had done this it had always been in quite small groups of people who knew each other quite well - I wasn't exactly sure how this was going to go down as within our group (there's anything between 10-20 of us) there are people who I know really well and those who are still at the start of the friendship journey. But it was such a fruitful and uplifting time.
Sometimes being honest about what you like about someone else not only does wonders for their self-esteem, but also for yours as you can see you are making an impact. Community only can go as far as the people within it will let it. Genuine community is about sharing life, the ups and downs, hopes and fears, weirdness and insecurities. That can only start when you really feel like people like you!
I know that for me I have spent a large part of my life working or manipulating situations so that people like me. It's sometimes hard to believe that people will genuinely like me for me. The real, weird, over-the-line, energetic, possibly-too-much, me. I struggle with myself sometimes, even I find me annoying! But yet, in trying to be real, and the mess that comes with that, I have entered into real community. Where I can be honest about my fears and failures, where my uniqueness is celebrated and where I am encouraged to be myself.
Last week I met up with a friend of mine who I have nick-named "Queen of Encouragement" because EVERY time we catch up I leave feeling like my spirit is soaring. Now not only did she buy me coffee and cake, but she encouraged the socks off of me. Being surrounded by people who can and WILL do that is a totally blessed place to be in. But it's where anyone wanting to grow in faith and living for Christ should be. If you want to grow you have to be in fertile soil; soil that is going to help and is full of nutrients. The people you associate with are either a blessing or a drain, there is limited middle ground. You need to make sure you have a good balance to spur you on. For me, I've been challenged; am I a blessing to those around me? Do I build them up?
I'll stop with this verse:
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another" Hebrews 10:23-25