It is difficult to admit we need people in our lives. Our culture contributes to that - we are independent, free spirits. We don’t like to let others into our personal bubbles, and we certainly don’t want them to know when we are hurting or need some help and support. We are shamed into keeping our mouths shut, putting up walls, and donning smiley-faced masks. Such shame is misplaced. Instead of being ashamed of the fact we struggle, make mistakes, and face heart-wrenching situations - even if we brought them on ourselves - we ought to actually feel shame that we have become apathetic to the pain of those around us.
We need people.
Even introverts like me need people in their lives. I draw emotional strength from my times alone - and that will never change - but I have learned I need to let people behind the walls. I need to talk and be heard and to listen and care about others. I get into so much trouble when I try to go it alone. We all do. Sharing our heartache with someone else makes the unbearable a little easier. Hearing their pain allows us to participate with them as human beings in a difficult world. Talking through stresses about money, jobs, children, fears, parents, anger, sadness, illness, depression and every other thing that plagues us can sometimes help us figure out viable solutions and can almost always help to lift our spirits. We need to know we are not alone. When we really talk to and pray for each other we connect on a deeper level. When we pool our resources, we can do so much more than when we keep ourselves isolated and try to get through life alone.
One of the things I admire about Sarah is one of the greatest lessons I have watched her learn through the past several years. There was a point when she was deeply hurt by leadership in a church. Not only did the church leadership hurt her - family was involved as well, and that quite nearly destroyed her. One of the results of that was she found herself homeless and depressed. Sarah is a strong and independent woman - an Army veteran, even - and her initial instinct was to shut out the world and draw into herself. She could have stayed that way and forcefully, by her own anger, pain, will and personal strength, pulled herself through and turned her life around - or she could have allowed bitterness to keep her stuck right where she was at. Those were paths she could have chosen. But she didn't.
People reached out to help her, and she resisted at first. I understood her lack of trust - if you lose trust in church and family, who else is there? But then, she made a choice - she dropped her guard and started allowing people to help. I know it was a struggle for her, but by allowing God to use people to help her out she found peace, and her faith was strengthened - and the testimony of her life has given her a stronger foundation for establishing and leading The Torch. I believe we are created to need others, and if we resist letting them in and try to do life alone, we will never find the peace and fulfillment we should have - and it will much more difficult to get through the rocky times of life. Sometimes it takes a hard lesson to learn that.
For many years I have listened in a variety of churches as pastors talk about how our society has decimated community. They have attempted to address the problem through small group meetings - where people from the church get together weekly in small groups to get to know each other. This helps somewhat within the church setting, but I know a lot more people who have no community connections than I do people who are involved in small groups at a church.
One of the events Sarah and I have talked about we would like to see The Torch accomplish in the future is to bring block parties to neighborhoods to try and draw people together. It would be such a blessing to be part of an undertaking like that, and to see people talking to and getting involved with the people who live closest to them. Several times during this journey we have had the privilege of connecting people who have needs with others who can help them. Organizations are not always the solution to people’s problems, as much as we might prefer for life to stay in a neat little package like that. People are the solution. People who are willing to listen, or tutor, or mow a lawn, or give someone a ride, or buy a box of diapers, or share their own difficulties and how they got through, or bring some free food and encourage fellowship and friendliness. People who are willing to put themselves out there, get involved, and offer whatever gifts and talents they have to give. People who are willing to give and receive help, who admit they struggle and hurt, who want to be participating members of a community of support and help, compassion, love, and understanding.
People need people in their lives. I need people in my life, and so do you. I think there are probably a lot of people reading this blog who have been hurt by a church before - or by people who call themselves Christians. Maybe you have found yourself stuck on that. You re-live it and revitalize the pain. And it is a legitimate hurt, so you have shut people out - especially "those" people. It's time to let someone in again. It's time to stop painting everyone by the same brush. There are people in the world who genuinely love you. There are people in the world who genuinely want to help you and support you. There are people who have been where you are, who can empathize with you better than anyone else.
I know it isn't always easy, but take a step. Let someone in. Beloved, you matter. You matter so very much.