Wrestling With Community

I cry when I read the Acknowledgement page in a book.

I know it’s weird. Most people, if they are going to cry, sniffle at the storyline, but I always get teary-eyed reading that page at the end of the book, fiction or non-fiction.

If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, the acknowledgment page means you’ve made it. In your hand is the published word. The real deal. Dream become reality.

It makes me emotional, because if you’ve ever written anything of substance, you know you didn’t do it alone. It’s takes a village to bring about a book. And a tribe to launch it.

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It’s this concept that brings me to pause. I resist community. Moving around a lot, makes it hard to establish or find a group of people where you fit. You always feel like the outsider. It’s exhausting trying to find new friends and relationships. When you are an introvert, well, it makes it much more difficult.

If you’ve been hurt by a community, doesn’t it make you want to run the other way? To hold everyone at arm’s length. To trust no one.

It’s so much easier to stay inside with your cup of coffee and a good book.

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A year ago, God began to nudge me about my attitude towards community. I felt He wanted to have a chat about it but I wasn’t interested in engaging in said conversation. Instead I got mad.

It started one Sunday when my husband preached a sermon on this very topic. He was so positive. I was so angry. It made me furious that he could still believe after all the years of experiencing dysfunctional community. What planet had he been on for the last fifteen years?

His positive attitude contrasted with my own negativity. Obviously I hadn’t dealt with a few issues. I stuffed them back down and told God I wasn’t interested.

I felt it was an unfair request. You know the kind, where God’s asking you to do something that goes against every fibre of your being. He knows your experience and still He’s asking you to put yourself out there. Again. How many times do we have to give of ourselves? How many times do I have to tell Him, He made a mistake?

You may recall a bible story about Jacob wrestling with an angel who was in fact God. They struggle all night long until the break of dawn when the angel tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob says he won’t until the angel blesses him. The angel puts his hip out of joint because Jacob won’t let go. God renames Jacob because he had “wrestled with God and come through”. (Genesis, 32:22-32, The Message) He blesses him. Spares his life. Something that is not lost on Jacob as he names the place Peniel because he had come face to face with God and lived to tell about it.

I think the interesting thing here is that Jacob didn’t shy away from the wrestling match. He engaged and fought hard. He wouldn’t let go. On top of that he had the audacity to ask for a blessing. God gave the blessing and spared his life. It makes me think that maybe it’s okay for us to wrestle some things out with God.

Honestly up to now I have been skirting the issue. To actually wrestle something through, you need to be engaged and participating. God doesn’t let it go.

So here I am, reading the acknowledgment pages of my novels, thinking about community. Realizing I have a group of people surrounding me who have continually supported me in my writing endeavours. They are flung far and wide but it is a community nonetheless.

It’s not the communities God wants to talk to me about. I haven’t been ready to go there. Instead our creative, patient, imaginative God serves me up the Acknowledgement page and says, ‘Think about this.”  I have.

At some point there will be a fight. I’m just not sure who it’s against – the fear that surrounds and prevails around the idea of community or with God. Maybe both. We need to take a lesson from Jacob and not let go of God while we struggle through the thing. To hang on until we figure it out and see the blessing of it all.

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In the meantime, the Acknowledgement page from the next book, blinks at me. A silent reminder that this journey we’re on is full of battles, but the One who leads us, knows us intimately and won’t let us go.

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