Collective faith strengthens our faltering steps

Written by Taeryn Novak

“… The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters …”

The night was clear and dark and cold. I sat wrapped in a wool sweater, wood and flame crackling in the bonfire in front of me as I stared up at a full moon just rising above the pines. Tears tracked my cheeks noiselessly as my friend’s slow and resonant voice recited the creation of the world. So unexpected was the peace I felt edging its way into my heart.

There was a long journey to get to that fire. To that cleansing moment. There were so many months of uncertainty, with a longing I couldn’t name or shake. On that early spring evening, I still didn’t have words, or answers. But I had the softest sense that I was being held, enveloped in the darkness with God’s spirit hovering beside me, as I listened to those holy words in a fresh and real way.

My heart was weary. Weary of the winter. Weary of wondering what new crisis might be next in a long-suffering relationship of mine. Tired of trying to live up to (my own?) expectations that I must remain demure, presentable, responsible and unaffected by the storm. Alone.

By the time I reached this fireside gathering of fellow youth leaders and God-lovers (where we shared a meal and verses we were challenged to memorize), I was already in a much better state compared to my mid-winter season.

A family crisis seemed to be calming down. And if not, I had gained a new resolve about what my boundaries must be. I had returned to some kind of routine, started taking vitamin D, and sought to read small portions of Scripture again in the evenings (didn’t quite matter what I read, just that I did).

But even with all these things: still that longing. To be connected to something greater than just myself and my own suffering. To be known. To be upheld by a collective faith, not just my own faltering steps. To hear others declare the goodness of the Lord when my voice wasn’t strong enough. This fireside gathering gave me a glimpse and a reminder of that—of the beauty and simplicity of fellowship.

Have you ever been through a time when it was harder to have faith? Part of that can be seasonal, yes, but another reality we must acknowledge is that that our culture does not promote faith. Even if it does, it surely isn’t the living spring of water and wisdom we need. Further, the world wants us to isolate in our pain, forgo community and try to medicate with cheap, imitation solutions.

But no matter what you are going through—if you have a strong Christian community, cling to it. If you don’t have one, find it. And if you have tried to go off alone, return to it.

For months, if not years, I have needed a steadfast community of believers around me in more substantial ways than just showing up at church on Sunday. I have close friends who encourage me in my faith, and I even work in a Christian ministry and have wonderful coworkers. Yet still my heart longed for a consistent, intentional group of people that I could meet with, share meals with, know and be known by.

Creating this kind of group seemed like an uphill battle, especially in this digital age and in a time when people my age are in so many different life stages. But by God’s grace and guidance, I recently joined a peer-to-peer mentorship program at my church. A friend and I decided to take the leap and start a home group.

If we waited until the “perfect time” or until we felt “ready,” we knew it would never happen.

We wanted to build an authentic community anyways, so who cares if the house wasn’t big enough and people had to sit on the floor? We just decided to send out the invitations and trust that God would bring the right people.

I am not sure where God will take me on this journey. I hope it will be to a place of greater vulnerability, intentionality, and joy as He knits the hearts of His kids closer together. I hope we can uphold each other in life and faith, find unity in the Spirit and walk in humility, gentleness, patience and peace as Ephesians 4 guides us.

My prayer is that God would provide us with friends who will sit around the fire with us, who comfort and speak words of life into the darkness. People who will join the song of all creation, declaring God’s greatness and loving presence in our lives.