I used to believe that people relied on me to be happy. They needed me to bring a few extra ounces of joy into their day & that I was responsible for being their light. That's a lot of pressure. I felt like I couldn't share what was going on in my life with the people around me and that if I did, they wouldn't be able to understand or that I wouldn't be giving them what they need. It was a burden that weighed so heavily on me and I let myself believe that other people depended on me for happiness...and they did. But that is not what it means to be in a relationship. That is not healthy community.
When I came to college, my prayer was for strong female community. I prayed that God would place people in my life that would lift me up and point me to Him in every circumstance. From the second that I walked onto Belmont's campus, I felt a rush of warmth & welcome that I had never experienced. This year, I have experienced life-giving community. The people in my inner circle have shown me the power of vulnerability, communion, and honesty. These women sit on the floor of my dorm room with me and listen with graciousness and point me towards the Lord. They get up at the crack of dawn to have a Bible study in the JAAC. And those same friends hype me up to be the best version of me. I've heard God speak to me through each and every one of them as they remind me about His perfect timing, the way He sees me, and how to live my life more like Christ.
Community is not about living a perfect life. It's not about taking on everyone else's burdens and setting yours aside. It's not about you, at all. It's about listening, giving AND taking. Last year, I found myself giving until I was completely depleted and emotionally exhausted. This year, I have strong people in my life who love me enough to give their time, advice, and grace without me even hinting that I need it. That doesn't mean that I stop giving, or that I need to stop being there for them. But it does mean acknowledging that there's difference between interacting with someone and life-giving community. The difference comes down to three things:
1. ALL parties have to give 100%
This level of community requires meeting people exactly where they are, not just halfway.
2. It can't be all about you
The feeling that others need you to be happy and that they rely on you is selfish. For a year of my life, I was convinced that this was my role, but it's not. I'm still learning to let go and let God. Reminding myself that He is the only one that can be there for everyone all of the time...it's not what you, or I, is called to do. It's the most humbling experience when you realize that your desire to help could be you trying to be something for someone else that only God can be for them. (all my Enneagram 2 babies are screaming..me too, don't worry!)
3. God HAS to be at the center.
There is not life that He does not provide, and there is no barrier or burden He is not capable of delivering you from. He will place the people in your life that are supposed to be there, and He will remove the people aren't. The relationships that have Jesus at the heart will be the ones that stay with you.
For anyone feeling the way I was, exhausted and bottled up, may I just speak to you for a moment? The people that truly love you can handle your burdens. The people that truly love you will not rob you of joy and should not rely on you for their joy. God is trying to teach you something in this season. I know how hard the lessons in this season are to find, but trust me, He will reveal them to you. I know you're tired. I know you're looking for someone that can handle the weight of what you're going through. Can I just encourage you to give all of it to God? Give Him the burdens, the anxiety, and the doubt...He can handle it. When you do that, and I mean truly relinquish all of it to Him, just watch as He places people in your life who want to build life-giving community with you. Don't stop praying and don't lose faith.. He saw me through it, and He'll walk you through it too.