Written by Morenike Ajidagba
As a self-professed introvert, I like the idea of community without the commitment of actually plugging into one when I need it.
But then I started struggling in school, especially with the research portion of my degree program. I hoped to complete the degree without much stress and fuss. I’d pop up at the end and give a short and sweet testimony in church testifying to the goodness of God.
The challenges with my research threw a spanner in my well-crafted plan. I was forced to get past my reluctance to be vulnerable and open with my community. I found myself speaking to people and seeking counsel everywhere and anywhere I could. My need prompted me to have open conversations about a topic that was sore and touchy for me.
Proverbs 3:4-5 says “Trust the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” It’s not always about us. When we choose to follow Jesus and obey Him, we let go of our control over our lives.
Plugging into a community means accountability and submitting to authority. Submission can be such a taboo subject in our society, where everyone wants to be a law unto themselves.
But as believers, we must always submit to the rulership of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Beyond that, humbly submitting to the wisdom of our Christian communities gives us the tools and support needed to stay the course.
This can mean inviting others to speak into our lives and being shaped by their input. For example, I started seeking out mentorship in different areas of my life (including finances, career, spiritual life, relationships).
When I have no strength to fight on my own, I depend on my community and those who are stronger in the faith to pray for me or provide direction and practical advice.
I appreciate the vitality and strength of friends my age, but I also value the wisdom and life experience of those that have gone ahead of me. I’m a member of a young adult church in Edmonton that’s affiliated with a more experienced church. This means I’m privileged to get the best of both worlds.
The story of Ruth and Naomi beautifully shows intergenerational relationships that are characterized by mutual support.
Naomi demonstrates the ability to show up even in her pain for somebody else. Naomi had every reason to be bitter; she could have become a recluse and been unwilling to offer her life advice to Ruth after the loss of her husband and sons. Yet she was open to teaching Ruth. Ruth likewise was open to learning and to being counseled by Naomi.
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. This is the interrelated structure of all reality,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said in his Christmas Sermon on Peace in 1967.
Our lives are not just for us. Community is a place where we are poured into and also where we pour into others. So when one of my friends is feeling weak, I pray for them just as my mentors prayed for me and reminded me of the light of Christ that is readily available to me.
This story may not be as nicely tied together as if I had graduated when I had hoped. But, through the process of sustained growth, while in the waiting, I am learning about my weaknesses and learning to trust God through the process. This is a testimony far greater that I can share with others about plugging into my community, rather than if I had struggled on my own. Rather, building trust in God and His people has opened up the possibility for far greater belonging.