What a Fourth!

11am- watched/discussed sermon from Erwin McManus with Dave
1pm- went to the pool with Rhodes, Lords, and Reichleys
5pm- cookout at the Lords’ with half the 3DM team

Yesterday was better than expected.

I’ll admit, I thought it would be hard to connect with the community here in Pawleys. Mainly because I’ve based it off of what I’ve seen.

However, they’re doing something awesome here. From the moment I’ve arrived, I’ve been treated like family and part of the team and it’s felt natural. Even when I ran out of the task they gave me, I never in the way. Instead of “well, looks like you can go home now” I got “please wait here, lets go to lunch!”.

I’m not saying that Tuscaloosa has a lesser community. It doesn’t. It’s the one I’m apart of. But what. Am seeing is that everything is so connected, even for an outsider.

I can’t put my finger on it just yet. I’m not entirely sure why this community in Pawleys Island is so appealing to me. My options now are to replicate it wherever I go or to join it. We’ll see.

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Depression, Anxiety, and the Gospel

Let’s just go ahead and get this out there: Christians suffer from depression, anxiety, and other various mental illnesses. It does not mean that they are corrupt or have done something awful to deserve this. There are literally thousands of ways to end up struggling with these illnesses. For those struggling with their depression, it may be that their view of hope is challenged and changed by disease and pain. Those suffering from anxiety may have their hope obscured by fear. Yet, the hope is still there. Christ isn’t ineffective in their lives, so it is fact that hope is still there.

 

“I hate people.”

That phrase resonates in my mind over and over. I used to feel that way. I indeed used both my depression and social anxiety to cop out of social events. I truly believed that I was a lone wolf and I felt better when I could sit alone and do whatever I want. Yes, counseling helped but there was only treatment and no progression. I was constantly neglecting the Gospel and the importance of community. I felt better with my depression and anxiety under control but I still believed I didn’t have to interact with people. No progression in that area. However, this is life, I want to be a counselor, and there are people everywhere… I’m going to have to deal with them eventually.

Note: I know the severity of these illnesses and how sometimes certain situations can be detrimental to one’s health. However, I believe there needs to be progression in finding where your comfort (or un-comfort) lies.

My challenge is this stop using the guise of depression and anxiety to justify your comfort in being alone. Why? I firmly believe that we aren’t meant to find comfort in being alone away from the social context of community. I also believe the Word makes that clear as well. In my experience I found that when I felt comfortable avoiding people to be alone that I was also comfortable neglecting the Good News.

We aren’t even called to be comfortable in the first place. I would rather you and I be uncomfortable in investing and being invested in the social context of community than comfortable being alone away from it.

What if I’m wrong and you claim to hate people but you’re really using that as an excuse and reason to falsely analyze someone and develop passive aggressive tendencies? Guilty. I am actively trying to correct that right now. I’m leaning into it. There was no point. I did it to mask my insecurities and my depravity. That is very bad habit. I suggest that you lean into that as well. It is a process but we’re flooded by God’s love and grace every second. For me, I became vulnerable in the uncomfortable place of community. Since that has happened, I’ve been in process not only with God’s love and grace but with earthly friends going along with me.

I was on the verge of finishing this post when Blake Jenkins, an associate college pastor I’m under while here at the UofA, delivered an awesome point this last Wednesday. It shifted the direction of this post only slightly. He talked about 1 Thessalonians 2:8 which the ESV reads:

“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selvesbecause you had become very dear to us.”

Blake’s challenging point was that Paul wasn’t content with just sharing the gospel. He needed to share himself. He needed to interact with people! Why? They were very dear to him. In fact that’s why I’m delivering this to you now. You are dear to me. I fully believe that God appoints someone to walk through the valley with Him, come out, and go back to the beginning of the valley to walk through it again but this time with a friend. So, if you aren’t struggling with this now but have in the past and you know someone who is, go back to the beginning of the valley. Even if this isn’t what you’ve struggled with, you know what the valley and the leaning in process looks like. Be together!

I hope this doesn’t offend or point fingers at the readers but simply challenge them. I, too, believe that the wound from a friend is much greater than the kiss of the enemy.

Please, don’t be content with just sharing the gospel. Share yourself. Start becoming an individual in community not independent from it. Our life in community is the manifestation of the mind of Christ. If you are involved in the context of community, have compassion for everyone because: they are dear to you and you are dear to them.

Something about community.

This is me being transparent. You’ll read and discover what community is to me. Enjoy this short post!

I was going to write this extremely long post about what community looks like in my life (your average college student). I was going to write about the situations, events, and relationships that I partake in that show how the love of Christ is working and how this thing called “community” is important. Maybe I’ll write that post someday. Community is always evolving; same principle but a different form. Hopefully in a year from now I will reflect on the community I experienced while in college. For now this is a summary of that post:

I see community in my wholesome close friendships that’ll last 20 years or more ( those also showing signs of discipleship). Those are were I am most vulnerable and available. However, some of that carries over into my life group and a cloud of friends. Then I experience it in the larger body of active agents of redemption that is The Well UA and the college ministry at Calvary Tuscaloosa. The chain ends with Calvary Tuscaloosa. Though “end” might not be the right word; for this community is always reaching out and serving. (I really want to expand on this… and I will… I hope)

However, I couldn’t grasp what I really wanted to write about until a few weeks ago. I found myself wanting to share what I was getting out of community not just the sources of it in my life. I have discovered that I am currently finding healing through Christ’s love in the context of community. Community gives me a way to relate to others. In this community, we aren’t calling our brokenness failure, we’re celebrating God’s grace and His power being made perfect in our weaknesses.

(Note: this is coming from an introvert!)

I now actively seek out community. I want to be with my brothers and sisters. Though in large gatherings I’ll still be silent and that’s something I’m trying to understand and work with. However, I’ve learned when and where is the proper place to unleash my feelings, thoughts, and sources of weakness and I find that when I do this: I’m not alone. I wasn’t ever alone. I don’t exactly know why I thought that. I thank God for that. Being able to relate to the brokenness in others makes this introvert able to develop awesome friendships and make the process of healing easier. Brokenness comes in many ways – but I’ve decided to lean into it with community. With that, I’ve found healing.

Instead of breaking down the sources of community in my life and what I gain from each and every part; I want you to know that right now Christ’s love for me is being made evident in the context of community and that it is where I am currently finding healing. I wish I could elaborate on how it’s actually happening but I can’t. I don’t understand it. That’s OK, right? Just know that God has provided this way for me to find healing and because of that I’m finding out that I really love community and spending time with my brothers and sisters. For an introvert, I think I’m making progress.

UPDATE:

I realized I may have worded a part of this a little funny. I don’t seek out community for the healing of my personal wounds but I find this healing amongst others. Community doesn’t allow me to focus primarily on me. I’m no longer an individual in community so I longer view myself as one.As the writers of Compassion put it, “…we’re no longer a mass of helpless individuals but transformed into one people of God”. Therefore, my focus is on the entire Body and witnessing God’s love through it.

Time-lapse fasting.

(note: Last week we were given the challenge to participate in a corporate fast. This fast would last 24 hours and we were asked to give up food and social media. I did this last year and it was amazing. It made us rely more on God’s strength and peace. It also brought the church together and we all experienced community a whole different way: breaking bread after a fast.)

To keep away from social media for the 24hrs I’ve decided to just write. This is just to give you a glimpse of what an average college student does during this 24hr social media and food fast.

8:55pm

I officially stopped all social media surfing and eating. Here comes the water chugging (not).

9:05pm

Not long since last entry. I drank a huge cup of water. Craig is here and is working on slides. Community makes fasting easier. I think 12am will be my next major update. Unless I find something interesting before then.

12:00am

It has only been 3 hours so it hasn’t been too tough. Thankfully I will be able to sleep for 8 more hours. My mission for tomorrow is to stay away from the Ferguson center. Mainly just food in general. I’m off to bed now. I know I will be waking up pretty hungry tomorrow morning. I’ll be fine. I hope.

9:35am

I don’t feel that bad. Normally I don’t eat breakfast anyways so I know this feeling. When 11:00 comes around though… It’ll be rough. Digging into the Word now! I have class at 11 and then probably the Episcopal Church’s Ash Wednesday service.

12:35pm

The professor that Craig and I have made us late for the Ash Wednesday service so we didn’t go in but instead headed back to Calvary’s chapel. About to commence my 1 hour alone time with God. While I miss social media, He misses me. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

3:00pm

Six hours left. I’ve been praying for strength. The talk of food makes my stomach growl. However, I just spent 1 hour with my heavenly Father and then 2 hours with my mentors and great friends. Tonight should be amazing. I hope I don’t get a headache.

5:00pm-

Right now I’m watching tv. Trying to pass some time. I have a headache but I’ll pull through. I’ve been praying for the students who are fasting with me and the college ministry staff. May God provide them with strength. Chris and the rest of the staff will each be doing something tonight at The Well. It’ll be different for those that haven’t been exposed to this type of service. It’s shower time!

7:00pm-

I’m about to head to The Well. I’m not that hungry anymore.

9:05pm-

The 24hr fast is officially over. I’ve let every social networking site know. I’m not hungry at all. The night of prayer gave me a peace I’ve never felt before. I hope this continues into tomorrow and the next day and the next.

10:00pm

I picked up Hungry Howie’s pizza with some really great friends and sat down to break the fast with them. It’s been a wonderful 24 hours.

This concludes the journal entries for this day of fasting. Things I’ve learned: praying constantly produced a state of pure Joy I’ve never experienced, I want less food and more God, the Church is beautiful, and I’m blessed with an awesome college ministry team. I’m so thankful.