“As much as we love you and the work you do around here, you need more than we can offer. You need to take a leap of faith and go somewhere that can take you deeper.” At the time, those weren’t the words I wanted to hear. What I didn’t realize, however, was that God would use that wisdom to prepare me for something life changing.
This conversation took place about two and a half years ago. I was working in Youth Ministry at the time and, as much as I loved it, I found myself growing restless. I knew that it was time to go, but fear of the unknown often left me paralyzed.
The thought of starting over from square one in a new place with a new community was overwhelming. God was persistent though. Just over a month later, a door full of opportunity swung open; that’s when I joined The Culture Project.
At the time of writing this, I am serving my third year as a missionary with this amazing organization. I’ve made some beautiful memories in my time here and learned more than I ever anticipated. Of all these lessons, however, the one that has struck me the most is the importance of community.
Up until I joined the mission, I hadn’t had the best experience with finding a solid community. Although I had a few close friends back home, I always found myself feeling like an outsider in the larger group. This, of course, came with consequences.
Because I wanted to belong, I would often try to fit a mold within the group instead of being my authentic self. In more extreme cases, I also found myself unwilling to take a stand for my beliefs. I was closed off, afraid to be vulnerable, and unrecognizable to myself.
I carried all of these things into my first year of mission life. My walls were placed high and the fear of making a mistake loomed over me for months. In that time, however, my community kept pursuing me and my life began to change dramatically.
I felt more free to be myself with each passing week. I was able to grow in vulnerability and express my needs. I even found myself freely choosing to do things for my teammates that I would have otherwise begrudgingly done before.
This community challenged me to be a better friend, brother, and man. It pushed me to rise above my weaknesses and grow in my faith. It was through this mission and the people serving alongside me that I was finally able to go deeper.
Although it required me to leave the comfort of my old community, I can say with complete confidence that I would not be who I am today without it. So, if you’re ready to go to that next level, start by investing in a solid community. It can make all the difference!
So how do we go about it? Here are three ways to get started:
- Find friends who want to be saints! Surrounding ourselves with people who desire greatness will challenge us to rise to new heights. Many of our greatest saints were friends with other saints!
- Strive to live a life of virtue! Simply surrounding ourselves with good people will do nothing if we do not commit to personal growth. Iron sharpens iron, so we must aim to challenge others just as we desire to be challenged.
- Be patient! Finding this type of community can take time. Don’t rush the process and allow God to guide you to the right people. They may not be the people we expect, but they will be the ones we need.
One of the fundamental truths of who we are is that we were made for communion with others. We simply cannot do it all on our own. So know that investing in others is worth the risk and remember that we are just as worthy of being invested in. These communities exist and they’re just waiting to be discovered!