Though I grew up attending church (and that's sadly pretty much all I did...show up, warm body status), I had little to no experience participating in Bible studies or home groups until the last year or so. I joined a pilot city group at my church in Austin*, which was a fantastic foray into home groups, but shortly after moved back to DFW and found myself in search of another community.
As we got to know each other, M had shared many stories of his beloved home group, and I was excited to see for myself what these sweet folks were like. But I'm not gonna lie, I was also nervous as heck! As a recent convert to true intimacy in relationships (having spent many years keeping most people at arm's length), the idea of sharing life in a real way with these loving, seemingly angelic friends scared the bejeezus out of me. I was so afraid I'd say too much, or not say enough, or use a "Christian word" in the wrong context, or accidentally let out a swear word. I brainstormed several "acceptable" stories and experiences that I'd be willing to share, and shelved the rest. (Well, more like wrapped up, duct taped, shoved in a concrete vault and buried deep the rest, never to be found or revealed.)
Yeah, that whole strategy went riiiight out the window. Not because my fellow home groupers pried, nor did an ice breaker activity take an ugly turn. But rather I saw beautiful, broken people, sharing their stories, revealing their hurt, pain and sin, and in response the group poured out love, encouragement and thanks. I wanted to reciprocate, to honor these souls, and to honor our Father. I find it so amazing, time and time again, how much we can learn about our own condition by sharing struggles with others; in addition to making us feel less alone, we are given perspective to consider the plight of others, and to rejoice together in the Lord's forgiveness, grace and redemption.
Being part of a women's discipleship group has been so illuminating in this sense, as well, and I am finally starting to understand the meaning of Church. Not a building, not an activity to check off your Must-Do list, but a gathering of brothers and sisters, seeking Christ and sharing life. I still struggle with transparence and fearing judgement, and these groups are not comprised of perfect people, blissfully happy 24/7, skipping to and fro singing praise songs. But that is why we need Him.
I know that some of y'all don't feel comfortable discussing your faith in the blog realm, but please don't hesitate to reach out (via comment, Twitter, email, whatever) and let me know how I can be praying for you. Especially if you haven't found a church community and/or don't even know where to start, I'd be honored to join you in prayer for that guidance, or whatever it is you find yourself struggling with at the moment.
*If you're looking for a community in Austin, TX, I encourage you to check out Austin City Life.