By Nate Smith (Originally posted at Nate’s blog “Breaking The Silence” on Sept. 13, 2012)
I have been toiling with this post for a while now. I was wondering if I share what has been on my heart with this idea of engaging in community and to what extent. There have been numerous times in my Christian journey that I just wanted to walk away and escape from the community that I have been surrounded in.
I remember getting mugged within the first month of living in La Milpa, Heredia, Costa Rica. I yelled as a couple of youth pushed me down, put a knife to my throat as the neighborhood watched on. I walked down the street as the Ticos just stared at me. I stared at them asking in Spanish why they didn’t help. The silence of the streets left a hole of confusion. I went to the missionary base for the evening, prayed about it and realized “Why should I leave when this is the daily reality of the community? I have nothing to fear because God has placed me there.” The next day I moved back to the surprise of the family I was with. I watched and listened as local Christians came up to me. They commented that they were glad I did not leave and God has me in their neighborhood for a reason.
There was a time almost eight months later that I wanted to leave Costa Rica again. The continuous tension between staff members pushed me to make a phone call to my internship director. I told him I was ready to leave. He said “Well, you did your required time.” I sat back and knew that this would just be abandoning a significant opportunity that I had in my life. I stayed and do not regret that decision even with getting sick at the end.
There are still times when I want to let go of the community I surround myself in. I give others permission to ask the hard questions to me as I have opened up my life. My church family can look at me and ask “How have you been doing?” Community is scary when you are sharing the most vulnerable parts of your life. You are being stretched to be honest and authentic even in the weirdest and darkest of times.
This past Sunday I went for a drive just to pray. The more honest I am with God, the further He can take me with what I am actually thinking. I have gotten to the point as I pray seeking Christ’s face it comes more of a poetic spoken word. (Kendra told me my street cred has gone up).
As I prayed I started recalling the agony that Jesus felt when he prayed at Gethsemane. Peter, James and John fell asleep twice during this time. Jesus was praying to take this cup away. As I praying I was asking God not to make a mockery of me or Himself as my life is being in transformed in ways that the world may never understand. Jesus who felt abandoned by His closest friends. They were too tired to stay awake and keep watch. They did not know the significant moment to come. The brutal death on a cross, but later to be rose again.
I yelled and screamed at God leaving myself to the point of only to worship Him in the end. I said, “God whether or not these things come to a reality. You are God and I am not. I cannot push change into my own life when I am not ready for it. You make things a reality as I allow myself to surrender every part of me. The deepest part to you whom others think is an unseen King.”
I was reminded that Jesus, even felt abandoned by his friends in his deepest time of need. More significant for me is that Jesus even asked God not to suffer. However, Jesus still chose to suffer because it was God’s will. What I love about this story is Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection. He did not abandoned them for not keeping watch in his time of need. He came to show them that God’s promise was kept. The community was pulled back together for purpose of sharing the Good News.
I continue to hear of heart breaking stories of those wanting to leave places because they have been hurt. I understand. The question is, “When is it an appropriate time?” Are you leaving because it seems easier? Or do we face the reality that everyone, even Christians, that we come in contact with have their own flaws? Are we willing to admit our own? Are you leaving because someone is calling you out? Maybe that’s the point as we try to build each other and push other to become more like Christ.
Should we stay to see God’s promises come alive after the dark times? Should we stay to see transformation not only in other’s lives but in our own? Should we stay knowing that growing up in Christ together hurts? Should we stay knowing that sitting outside our comfort zones will only push us to be more like Christ?
I am always weary of leaving someplace for the sake of it being easier. God reminded me why He has put that in my heart years ago. I will not abandon community because my immediate community may not understand. I will not abandon community because someone may actually be encouraged by my outspoken vulnerability. I will not abandon community only to try find a new one, to be “hurt” again and repeating the steps over and over again.
Chose to engage, even how scary it may be. Be unafraid. In the darkest of times, you may not realize how others are praying for you. Continue to be honest each other as the Fruit of the Spirit shines through.