by Kendal Kelly
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Pic by mimadeo
About a year ago I found myself thousands of miles away from home, working on the most heavy heart issues one could imagine at a ministry school in Cali. I was enticed by the idea of “rest,” and their program, an all-inclusive, shame-removing, identity-finding, Bible-learning, butt-kicking year.
The thought of a ‘supernatural’ ministry school was exciting to me, so much so - to throw down some big change. I mean it’s Cali, who wouldn’t want to get out their shame, learn how to ‘prophesy’ like a beast, see someone get out a of a wheelchair; and indulge in an occasional surf trip during the weekends?
I knew it would be hard and painful, but I also figured new faces, new coffee shops, large crowds, it’s perfect! I’m strong right? Hello, rude awakening. It was like a slap in the face. I missed home. Not necessarily the 405 (OKC), or my undecorated room I rented, or even my fav local hipster stores filled with eclectic art and the people to match. I missed my people. I missed my church. I missed the community within the four walls that I had spent ten years building upon. They were my family.
During my time away I interacted with the 1,200 students around me and found that I was one of the very few that had found love, safety, acceptance, guidance and championing in the people of their local church. Sadly, I was the outlier.
The truth is we need community. We were never meant to live life alone. When God created Adam He said ‘it is not good for man to be alone’ and then He made him a ‘helper’, Eve. Then He went even further, and said to them to come together and make a family. Populate the earth. Create a community. The Bible says that He walked and talked with them in the garden. God was even a part of their community.
When I first started going to my home church, I had not been in church for over two years. I had become completely depressed and would only leave my room when I had to go to class. I had gone from a goofy, loving-life, ‘loudest girl in the room’ athlete to a hidden, miserable, overweight mess, who cried herself to sleep every night. I had completely forgotten who I was, who God was, what I was passionate about and what I was good at.
I started to party because there was nothing else going on and I was miserable - anything to stop the pain, the numbness. I wasn’t suicidal but I remember praying that God would just let me die. Thank God for amazing friends who never give up on you.
I had a friend who reached out to me. Week after week she tried to get me to check out her church. I literally only went to get her to leave me alone. I was immediately embraced; mess and all, and I instantly had 20 new best friends. Weekends were now spent corralling downtown instead of crying in my room.
I was invited to start serving because they saw something in me. I began to be mentored by leaders who poured into me. They saw past my mess, and began to mold my talents, push me beyond my fears, and help to round out the edges that needed to be buffered.
In a season where I had forgotten who I was, who God was, what His voice sounded like, what His Word said, they brought Jesus to me. When I had forgotten that God had promised to work out all things together for good for me (Romans 8:28), when I had forgotten that His plans are not to harm me but to give me life and life abundantly (Jeremiah 29:11) - they reminded me.
Just as Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, my feet were washed, my wounds were bandaged and healed, and I became a new person. When I couldn’t afford a meal they got my meal. On the days I could barely get out of bed, my community came beside me and fought for me when I couldn’t fight. They prayed for me, when I couldn’t pray. They became Jesus in the flesh.
4 walls don’t make a community. The people in it do. Are they perfect? No. Are they Jesus? No. Do people always do the right thing and say the right thing and never hurt you? No. That’s life: in or out of the church. We are all on a journey of becoming whole, becoming more like Jesus, we do that in community. So I urge you all to find your community of believers. Be you, be authentic. Let them see you, all of you. Let them love you, your mess and your best.