i deliberated over and over in my mind if we were going to go. we didn't really know the woman for whom the party was being given. some of our friends from church would be there, but so would a bunch of other people we didn't know at all. there would be an hour of mingling before a movie. AN HOUR OF MINGLING IN A LARGE GROUP. and so it struck:
i decided to email our small group -- who expected us to be there -- and tell them the truth. i knew they would be compassionate and understanding, totally non-judgmental. honestly, i sometimes struggle with social anxiety, i wrote. i often feel very self-conscious and shy in large groups where it's just a social gathering, especially when i don't know some of the people.
and today, two others in our group confessed their own struggles with this same issue. for me, this was just one of the many ways God has been affirming my understanding of community. in a real, genuine community, people can let their true selves be revealed. they can be honest about their struggles, they can openly confess the depravity of their hearts.
in doing so, the layers get peeled back, the barriers get broken down, and we begin to be knit together, human to human, rather than our facades merely exchanging pleasantries while trying to squelch everything that is hidden below and behind. when this becomes our paradigm for true community, we have others who can walk with us -- supporting us, exhorting us, encouraging us, rebuking us -- towards becoming who God intends us to be.