Dear friends; my lovely, sweet friends,
A couple of things have happened to me- to my heart- in recent weeks, and I want to share them with you. Not just because we're in a small group together, but because I love you. I cherish the intimacy we share together and I want to be transparent.
You see, when I decided to become a leader I wasn't aware that it would be this difficult...or this rewarding. I kept thinking of it as more of a logistical role- organizing this and that- and while that's certainly true, it's hardly the most important piece of the puzzle.
I've struggled with what has felt like failure to bring everyone together each week. But let me say right now that this letter isn't about setting more expectations for us to reach or creating obligations for us to meet. It's about love. And how love does.
I'm not talking about our book (but it is pretty great, isn't it?). I'm talking about the truth behind how Christ has called us to love one another: in action, in hot pursuit of the loveliness He's designed for us in community, and in the freedom that comes from knowing our needs will be met when we can't meet them ourselves.
At first, I was feeling discouraged each week when I arrived to study and realize we were short two, three, or even four people. I fought with myself about how to hold people accountable in a gentle way. I'm kind of a control freak. Even as a creative person, I need to have order. But that isn't always how God works. He likes to throw a wrench in our expectations and remind us that we need Him, and only Him, to accomplish His work. And, friends, this group- these beautiful, new friendships- are His work. But before I recognized the reality behind my own attempts to play God, I asked myself this question: how does one talk about commitment and participation in a way that doesn't sound like a high school guidance counselor? I know how I feel when others try to tell me what I should be doing, and it's not pretty. But the more I spoke to some of you, the more I realized how afraid we often are to share the truth that's hiding deep within our hearts. Even when we've already shared some of our most painful experiences, we still feel the urge to run. Not because we don't want to have community, but because, instinctively, we want to protect ourselves from what we fear could hurt us more deeply: Intimacy. Letting people in. Digging into old wounds.
How often have people said there is no judgment, only to turn their backs on you and prove your fears right? How often have you dedicated yourself fully to something, only to realize that it was draining you more than fulfilling any need? I can think of a few times in my life. And I bet you can, too.
If I haven't said this aloud, let me say it here: this group is a place for you to feel safe. I'm not interested in setting expectations for people to meet. I'm not interested in seeing only what's pretty. I'm interested in the broken hearts, the joys, the bad hair days, the runny mascara, the hugs, and the laughter. I'm interested in the messy.
I'm interested in you.
Last night, I was met with some truths that opened up a new reality for me. I thought about each of you. I thought about your stories, and your struggles- whether personal or professional, old or new- and thanked God for walking ahead of you that night at Grouplink- or however you came to join- and directing you my way.
Let me say, first, that I am not an "everything happens for a reason" person. That's too passive for me (I have control issues, remember?). I believe God allows us to make our own choices and He continues, every day, to encourage us to follow Him. Sometimes we do. And sometimes we don't. Sometimes we miss out on what He has planned. And sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a group filled with women who reflect our own desires, our own needs, back at us.
You see, I don't believe everything happens for a reason. But I do believe God speaks. And I believe with everything I am that we listened when He said, "You see that group over there? That's where I want you." And when I thought about each of us last night, stuck in traffic all over the city, holed up in our cars miles away from each other, a silly grin covered my face.
Our messiness, our inconsistencies, our flaws and bruises, are not weaknesses. They are simply tools for God to shape us into the kind of women only we can make each other.
So I ask that you forgive my need for control and understand I only push because I see the beauty in what He's made. I only ask because I so desperately seek what you've already brought into my life: unconditional acceptance and inexplicable comfort. I only bother because I want my love to do, not just speak.
That's true love...the love that does. And it's yours. I love you.