This week during small groups at college I prayed that God would help us to be an open community, both through celebrations and struggles. Often I feel like I can’t be open because it seems like we all put on a mask to cover up everything except what we feel comfortable revealing. I remember a challenge that Pete, the youth minister of my old church, gave to all of the leaders once – an awkwardly named session at a leader’s retreat – to get naked together. Before you call Professional Standards Unit on him, he meant emotionally. He explained that as a group of leaders we need to know each other, and support each other, and we can’t do that unless we’re naked – emotionally.
This week, I prayed that we would be open and honest. Naked, as Pete phrased it that one awkward moment.
After dinner, and doing readings for the next day’s lectures (for once), I noticed a campfire and decided to join people down there. A few hours were spent giggling madly with a new friend about too many things to explain. People came and went and eventually there was four of us left around the fire, and as you do around campfires, we got serious. We shared our testimonies. The good and the bad, and sometimes I was grateful for the cover of darkness, because I didn’t want people to see my face as I shared my story and I’m sure they felt similarly as they shared. But here’s the thing, we shared. We celebrated God’s grace and listened soberly to the tragedy.
As I showered on Tuesday it occurred to me that God answered my prayer in the space of about ten hours. And I smiled. And I marvelled at how God works through us, to pull us closer together and make a community out of messy people with mixed pasts – some with short stories, some with long stories, but all of us ending up covered by God’s grace and mercy and love and calling Jesus lord and saviour.
I saw that God works quickly sometimes. I want to thank him for what he can do. And I want to thank my family for being open, honest and metaphorically naked because it is those moments that teach us, stretch us and push us closer and closer to knowing true community.