It is 12:30 and I am up late thinking about my lovely Bible study tonight. Let me say first - it lasted like 5 hours. Between visiting before, doing the hour study, discussing the hour study, prayer requesting, praying, and then spending time together, I don't see how that will ever end up being a timely situation.
Secondly and more importantly, I think I might love this group. I definitely have a little crush on it, and I might even like like it - and I'm toying with dropping the L bomb. Needless to say. I was struck tonight by the uniqueness of this group, at least in my own life. I have been in some pretty fabulous small groups, in my opinion, but this one is standing out to me so far (and we're only on week 3). I know that it's the people who are making the difference here - and I want so badly to put it into words. I think there are a few things I can put my finger on...
Last week, since I had to fly home at the last minute, I missed our study. I called the leader, my friend Joel, and told him what had happened and that I wouldn't be there that evening. In calling him, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would be prayed for and that my family would as well. And yes, that isn't terribly novel - but I hardly know these people! They don't know much about me or I about them. But I knew that they would meet that need authentically and awesomely. That's the only way I know to describe it. I took note of this as a unique feeling.
I thought a lot tonight about community and what community should really look like as followers of Christ. As one sweet woman shared about her terribly personal struggles with infertility, filled with apprehension in sharing and subsequent gratitude at our response to her, I was struck by how so often we are resistant to share what is really on our hearts. As deep as her grief in the loss of two pregnancies, her babies, runs - she was still worried about what our response would be to her. This tells me one thing: there is something going terribly wrong with the church and with the body of Christ as a whole. Christian community should be a safe place to bear one another's burdens, to comfort and cover one another in prayer. I don't know if you have ever found yourself sharing something of yourself and suddenly feeling the urge to apologize for yourself? That is what I'm talking about. Tonight in my new friend's story I heard that longing that we all share to be who we are despite all the crap that infiltrates our lives and the shame we experience as a result. We got to share in our different losses together and be there for each other in a way that was really quite beautiful.
Lastly, as we rallied around another member who is struggling to quit smoking, I listened to these friends of mine talk to this guy as though we were about to go into battle with him. An intense analogy, but the point is that this guy is struggling and asking for prayer and people are going out of their way and instead of going through the week praying, "Please let so and so quit smoking" and that be the end of it - asking what WE can do as a community and as people who care for him to help him. Simple, yes. Easy, not so much. I wondered to myself in that moment if I was as willing as these two soldiers to join with this almost complete stranger in battle - and I found that I really was. As he was prayed for by another member of the group, they prayed that our friend would know that we, as a community, were prepared to be warriors for him - that we were ready to be there for the battle. I know that when I need them, these people will rally around me in the same way.
I am so so so thankful, at this point in my life, that I have such brave warriors to fight with me. I definitely wouldn't limit that to this group - but I would without hesitation extend it to my family, to my sweet friends here in Denver, in Kansas, and in Texas. I think I got a great picture tonight of what genuine Christian community is intended to be like. We fight for each other; we bear one another's burdens; we cover one another in prayer. We are who we are and we ignore that urge to apologize for it. We care for one another on a deep level beyond how well we know one another.
Every now and then I think we get a glimpse of something really, really, deeply good. Something that is really true. The main character in the book I just read for book club, Perry L. Crandall, is a mentally challenged (but not retarded) man who wins the lottery. Perry would always bounce when he got really excited about something. Nights like tonight make me want to bounce.
And in the words of Perry L. Crandall:
"That is so cool."