When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son.  And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. – Luke 1:57-58 (NLT)

Community has been something that I have been learning a lot about in the last year.  Brandon and I have always been involved in our local churches since we were young.  We both learned to serve and take part in helping when needed.  Brandon is more of an outgoing personality, so community has come natural to him.  I am the complete opposite. I am an introvert by nature and really connecting with people has not been a strong suit of mine. Don’t get me wrong.  I love people and I love the local church but I have always kept people at a distance.  When I get close to others I tend to keep the relationship at a distance so they don’t get too close.  Over the years I have been content with my version of “community” but in the last year, I have found that to not be enough.  What I was defining as authentic relationships was actually just superficial acquaintances.  There was no real depth.  I actually found that I would have an inner struggle with this.  I wanted to get close but I was afraid of what others would think.  Would they actually be able to love me for me?  Could I actually trust someone with my true inner self?

This morning as I read this verse, something spoke to me.  There was something inside me that prompted me to look deeper into this verse.  At first glance, it really is a wonderful verse.  While Elizabeth was about to give birth to John the Baptist, her community rejoiced with her.  That in itself is beautiful.  The idea that as a community we are to rejoice with others in their times of joy.  To not envy their blessings but to give thanks to God for provision for them.  But as I read this verse again I felt like there was something more.  As I began to research more I discovered that in this time period it was customary for a community to rally around a woman as she labored. The cool thing is they didn’t just come for moral support, oh no!  They would come with musical instruments, food and they would prepare a huge party!  How cool is that!  Thinking back to the births of my two littles, I don’t know that I would have wanted my whole community around but as I let this idea sink in, I began to see how beautiful that picture really was.  Community to them was so much more than what we have turned it into.  It wasn’t just waving to your neighbors as you drove by or saying “Hey” when you saw each other at the mailbox.  Community meant family.  Think about the kind of authentic bond they had to all surround a woman in her (what I believe) most vulnerable state and celebrate the life that she was bringing forth.  Maybe it’s just me, but I was brought to tears as I imagined this scene.

There are maybe three people in my life that I would have even considered inviting to the hospital when  I was having my kids and only one of those was not Brandon or my mom.  I’m not saying we need to start inviting everyone in our contacts to the births of our children.  I am challenging you, just as I was challenged, to look at your relationships.  Do you have a true community?  Are you surrounding yourself with the “birthing room” friends or are you keeping others at a distance?

As I looked at my relationships I began to realize that I kept others at a distance out of fear.  Fear of what they would think and fear of getting hurt.  I truly believe this is true for so many others. We don’t want to let other in out of fear.  It’s fear that cripples us and keeps us from enjoying the community that God has for us.  It’s fear that tells us to not let them in when God says to love them.  To experience true authentic community, we must silence the lies of fear in our lives and stand on the truths of God.  The truth is that were created for community with God and with others.  And we don’t have to be afraid if others accept us because He does and He will provide the right community.  We just have to be willing to take a step and start cultivating those relationships.

My challenge to you is this.  Take a look at those who God has surrounded you with.  If you don’t have anyone, then I would encourage you to get involved in some sort of group.  Trust that God will bring the right people around you who are going to support you.  People who are willing to do life with you.  To rejoice with you in your blessings and grieve with you in pain.  Take a step and ask God to open your eyes to see who they are and He will show you.

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