I remember being in my small group. I was so excited to be leading a group of underclassman in high school. It was my first time actually ministering to a community. Needless to stay, I was so anxious. In my training, I was told to be attentive in order to ensure that all the students had a chance to share in the small group. By the second day of the retreat, something seemed off. I could tell one student in particular was closed-off. When I asked the group to go in a circle for sharing, the student would reply with one word answers. I could tell something was off, and I began to feel nervous. I thought to myself, What if this student doesn’t want to share because of me? Am I not supporting them enough? I knew I shouldn’t have signed up for this. I suck at this whole ministry thing.
As we went in a circle sharing, I thought about how to get this student to open up. In a gentle manner, I asked the student if they wanted to add anything to the conversation. Immediately, they shook their head. Ugh, please share, kid, I thought to myself. Then, I looked at the student and asked, “Do you want to go for a walk?”. “No”, the student immediately said. Finally, I did something a little bold and maybe even out of character for myself (disclaimer: It has been a few years, so I am not sure I would do this now to someone who is in a vulnerable place). After checking in with my leaders to get their approval, I came back to my small group and looked at the student. “Hey, let’s go for a walk”. The student got up and began to walk with me. As soon as we exited the building, they broke down into tears. Showing extreme emotion, they explained their guilt about a particular situation. It was clear that they cared deeply for the people involved, and my heart sank a little. After a few laps around the retreat grounds and a heartfelt discussion, I felt we had finally gotten to a vulnerable space. Needless to say, I learned on this retreat and the way in which I would interact with people in the future. I learned more about ministry. And I learned that we can find God’s love in community.
God’s Love In Community
Lately, I have been reflecting a lot about this theme: God’s love in community. What does it mean to walk with others in the presence of Christ? In high school, this was how I best saw my faith. For those of you who don’t know, I had a 1.64 GPA my freshmen year (shocking, I know— since I am a mega try hard now haha). I was on the brink of academic probation, and to be quite honest I didn’t really see a point in school. I hated learning. Faith was not even a part of my life at this point, and I was incredibly discouraged. After several interventions from my high school counselor and parents, I finally began the long journey of getting back on track. My friends also tried to intervene with the use of tutoring me and reaching out to me on the weekends. All these efforts allowed for me to see my faith through others. Being with community, in my opinion, is a reaffirmation of God’s love for us.
Community Can Change
The word “Change” used to scare me a little. In fact, I was even reluctant to write about this topic because it would mean that I would have to write about how I have changed. I think I am still trying to articulate where I am at with this new sense of change, yet I know that I am becoming a better version for myself. Nevertheless, I think it is really hard to admit that some of the outlets that I once found comfort in have shifted a little in my life. These places used to be sustaining for me, and I felt that this community was “it” in a sense.
Looking back on last semester, I can see where God’s love in community was absent. I was overwhelmed with extracurricular activities, I lacked sleep, and I didn’t know how to make room for rest. The foundation I once relied on for support was also not there. (Disclaimer: I pride myself in being able to be there for others. When this is not reciprocated, it can be hard). I had experiences like this in high school, and I think it made me reflect a lot on those high school shifts.
Your Voice Matters.
I have a feeling I will be writing on this topic more in the future. I have spent hours trying to find the right words for what seems like a common situation—my community is changing. As I process what this essentially looks like in the coming semester, I hope to be aware of my emotions. I was really nervous to write about this topic out of the fear that I would be judged. I was nervous that it might seem like a “subtweet” as opposed to what it really is— a situation out of my control. Things change. People change. I know this. Through it all, though, I have reached a point where I am welcoming this new change. I am no longer afraid of things changing— because my happiness is a priority.
To be continued on this topic. Thank you for reading. As I mentioned before, this was a little nerve-wracking to write about. I am slowly processing everything, and I hope to reflect more on this notion of God’s love in community.