If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”
–Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
I have re-read this quote over and over again because I am strongly convicted by my moments of ungratefulness towards my community. I’ve lived in Denver for four years, and there are tough days when I long to be with my hometown friends where everything feels like your go-to sweatshirt; comfortable, worn, and familiar. It’s hard to keep putting effort into new relationships. It’s more like breaking in new skinny jeans; revealingly tight and stiff.
Making community is tedious work. It’s television and social media that have tainted my view of community. I often become dissatisfied or disappointed because I imagine that quality community means you are constantly sharing an epic life-changing experience. When those “high” moments don’t take place, I spiral into self-pity—my community doesn’t match up with my expectations.
Have you experienced this disappointment? Feeling like the average moments of community aren’t enough? Sometimes this dissatisfaction makes me want to give up. Yes, seriously. I want to give up on community and be a hermit where I can’t be disappointed.
Yet, community wasn’t created to meet our expectations; it was created to glorify God.
Bonhoeffer says that pouring ourselves into community despite no great experience or discoverable riches produces something far greater than what we hope for in our relationships. I think a lot of these riches comes with submitting our expectations to God and allowing Him to work in our friendships.
I don’t believe our answer to restlessness or frustration in our friendships is to run away to the next “best” community. Even though I have flirted with the idea a time or two. The answer is to practice gratitude for the people God has divinely placed in your life.
When I submit to my circumstances, I DO experience the beauty of the community I have. Sometimes all it takes is sitting down and recounting all the incredible women God has placed in my life.
Just last week I was feeling a bit lonely, and so I wrote down every person I’d feel comfortable calling (actually picking up the phone and dialing their number) to meet me for coffee. To my surprise, there were quite a few names on that list. More than I expected. I smiled to myself and praised God for the blessings of good friends and confessed my sin of not practicing gratitude for them.
It’s easy to feel lonely when we don’t take a step back and see the relationships God is weaving around us. God has placed us in our community at this exact moment for a reason…there is no mistake in that.
So what’s next for you? Here are some questions to think about and talk with your communities:
How can we actively practice gratitude for our current communities?
How does wishing for an “easier” community hinder you from the fullness of friendships?
What are some unhealthy expectations of community that you need to let go of to better engage the gift of what you already have?