Five Ways to Find Our Peeps When We’re Feeling Disconnected
We're off and running with our series on getting a hold of our thought life based on Jennie Allen's book "Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts."
Last week we learned that if we want to get off an unhealthy "mental merry-go-round," we have only one thing to remember:
We have a choice.
That one thought can disrupt an unhealthy spiral of thinking.
We also learned of seven tools that can help us as we seek a healthy thought life.
The first is that we need to hold space for silence. As Jennie Allen said,
"In the stillness and quiet, not only do we connect with God, but we are also able to identify more clearly what is wrong. Recognizing our spirals and naming them is the first step in interrupting them."
But what next? According to Allen, we need community. She says,
"God Himself exists in community, the Trinity relating as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three persons, one God. Perfect community. Since God lives in community, He formed us to need community too."
The idea of living in community isn't a suggestion in Scripture. It's a directive. We are called to live in community. And because we can trust God's desire for us to live abundantly, we can trust that "together is better" by design.
According to Jennie Allen, there are five things to consider when it comes to expanding our community:
#1 The importance of seeking out healthy people.
#2 The power of just asking.
#3 The value of the three-letter word "yes."
#4 The importance of authenticity.
#5 The necessity of bothering others and letting others bother us.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend did something that impressed me. She sent out a text to a small group of women and, in a nutshell, said, "I need you."
She went on to explain some of the challenges she was facing. She then indicated why she was reaching out to the women she did.
She saw something in these other women that she believed would help her. And so, she asked, "Can we meet."
My friend is doing the number one thing when it comes to creating community. She is seeking out healthy people.
Jennie Allen notes in this part of her book that we won't find perfect people. No such thing exists. But we can look for and pray for whole and healthy people to come into our lives.
Allen also makes the wise observation that just as we desire certain kinds of people in our lives, we need to become those kinds of people as well. There is a responsibility we may need to assume.
She says, "If no one ever wants to be friends with you, there might be reasons. Are you growing in health and not bitterness?" She continues, "I am a big fan of counseling because it can disrupt unhealthy patterns we barely notice in ourselves."
If we need more whole and healthy people in our lives, but we sense the Holy Spirit is calling us to be more whole and healthier first, let's not hesitate! Let's pursue the guidance and wisdom that can be ours through counseling.
When creating community Allen's #2 bit of advice was "just ask." For some of us, that's not hard. But, of course, some of us would rather have a tooth pulled.
Asking can risky business regardless of what the ask is. But here's the thing, God made us risk takers. Scripture says that He did not create us with a spirit of timidity but of strength and love, and self-control.
So, let's be bold. Let's risk the ask so we can experience community like God wants us to.
Tidbit #3 is to say yes. A yes can be challenging too.
What if someone else took the risk and asked us, but we refused. We said, "no thanks." The loss for both parties is equal.
The person who was brave enough to ask is disappointed, and we have no idea what wonderful thing God had in mind for us that we just missed.
Saying yes is important.
And yet, boundaries and margins are essential. We all know that we cannot say yes to everything.
In Lysa Terkeurst's book "The Best Yes," she reminds us that discernment is an important part of knowing when to say yes. Of course, we want to say yes as often as possible, but we want those yes's to be our best yes.
Fortunately, the most powerful way to determine our best yes is by spending time with God. As we learned last week, being still with God is also the first thing we need to do when we're struggling with toxic thoughts.
It is good to say yes. It is good to identify our best yes. Time with God will help us do both.
Allen's fourth thought regarding community is that it is good to be all of who we are fast!
No beating around the bush.
No checking out the room first to see if we "fit."
Let's. Be. Us.
Again, I quote Allen, "Our spiraling thoughts of isolation threaten to keep us trapped in a place of self-sufficiency and shame, but vulnerability brings those to a screeching halt. So be ALL of you right away so that your friends get you–– the real you."
Years ago, I was volunteering with the Wednesday night kids ministry. I and another gal were keeping an eye on the older elementary kids as they burned off some steam by throwing balls and chasing one another. It was chaos.
The other woman looked at me and said, "You know, when Pastor talked about the need for help in the children's ministry, I thought maybe I could do that. But now that I'm here, I'm not sure why I said yes. I don't even like kids."
We both laughed! But I loved that this dear woman wasn't trying to be something she wasn't. By being honest with herself and others, it didn't take long until she found what was truly her sweet spot.
To paraphrase Allen, when we're ourselves, we scare off the wrong people sooner and bring in the right people quicker.
Finally, an essential strategy for expanding our community is to choose to bother others and let others bother us.
There are many things I love and admire about my husband, but this attribute is probably my favorite.
My husband bothers people.
The friend whose basement flooded will find Jeff at the door with a bucket and mop even though they never asked for help.
The neighbor struggling to remove a tree will, without asking, hear Jeff's chainsaw as he digs into the project.
Hubs shows me constantly how "bothering" others can be a powerful tool for connecting with people, ministering to people, and ultimately creating a community of people.
Jennie Allen also said this, "We also have to be botherable." We know what it's like to know someone who doesn't accept help well. We may respect it. But the result is less connection. If we do not allow others to bother us, we will not experience community.
Thus far, we've focused on the incredible gift that community with others is. God made us to be known to one another. This is a powerful truth.
But there is one more powerful truth we need to recognize.
No matter how many friends we have or don't have...no matter how authentic our relationships are or are not...as believers in Christ, we are already in community.
You and I are this very moment in community with God our Father, Jesus our brother, and Holy Spirit our Advocate. In the context of this community, we are each fully known AND fully loved.
This portion of Psalm 139 says it best!
"O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am;
You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.
Even when I am far away, You know what I'm thinking.
You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,
and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know.
You know what I'm going to say long before I say it. It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone.
You have surrounded me on every side, behind me, and before me, and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder.
It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out; the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it." Psalm 139:1-6
Would you pray with me?