1 Peter 1 :22
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
I grew up with the military which meant we moved a lot. The only community I knew intimately was the five members of my family. Even extended family like grandparents were practically strangers to me since I saw them so rarely. Though we only lived in the United States, each state was like another country. Different accents, different foods, different social barriers. I was automatically socially awkward because I didn’t know anyone or how to behave in the new environment.
Not being part of a community makes you hold back your heart, reserving it only for those few in your family because you don’t want to get hurt.
Years later when I was married with children of my own, I finally found community when I became a follower of Christ, but it still didn’t sink in. Though I made friends, I still held out parts of my heart, never getting too close to those in my new church community.
When we moved to Gloucester, my in-laws came to visit. Now, this was the first time I ever met them. They didn’t come to our wedding, and never even bothered calling to check on the grandchildren. When we did talk, all my mother-in-law did was talk about her life. She never asked about my parents or anything about what was going on in our family. They stayed about three days, and I thought it was a good visit; we seemed to get along fine. Then, before they left and without warning, full of anger, she verbally assaulted me with all kinds of untrue accusations. I was shocked and confused.
Afterward, I went up to the church to help with an event and walked around with my head down fighting to hold back tears. One sister saw the conflict on my face and asked what was going on. I burst into tears and related my story. She said something that connected in my heart. I finally understood what community was. She said, “Honey, ignore her, she is not your family, we are your family.” Then all the sisters in the room formed a circle of love around me and prayed.
I have been part of LightHouse family for 34 years now. I can genuinely say that when you plant yourself here and join in groups and projects, then you too will understand the real meaning of community and more than that – family.
This was God’s plan for the church: to be the family community that some have never experienced, or whose birth family are dysfunctional. In the church, we need to love deeply: hand out hugs often, pray fervently for one another, stand by each other, cry with each other, rejoice with each other and prove to the world, we are followers of Christ.
Love you all, LH church, and thanks for being my family.
~ Denise Ouellette