There was something that caught my eye as I walked past the small pool of water that formed amongst the stones. I thought I saw something moving, so I decided to draw in closer for a better look. It turns out something wasn't moving, a lot of things were moving! And they were the kind of things the average individual really would like to avoid — creepy crawlies, unknown growths, and plain old contaminated water.
It was striking to me to see this tiny pool next to the roaring and lively sea. It was also striking to see how the stagnated state had invited in unpleasant company while the ocean was full of vibrant life. They were so close, yet so incredibly far in so many ways. That tiny pool was once fresh water before things began to turn for the worse. How long did it take to get that bad? Little did I know at the time that it would become a central theme for the rest of my trip, but that’s when it clicked. I saw two potential conditions of the soul; one in open, vulnerable, and loving community and one isolated with walls and barriers enclosing it.
I once really struggled with the idea of community — and even more specifically, church community. There are many reasons why I struggled with it, but the biggest ones have to be that I simply didn’t want to be around people or I couldn’t get over differences in personality. I cut myself off because it wasn’t what I considered to be perfect or, at the very least, ideal. The more I cut myself off, the more creepy crawlies and unpleasant company found their way into my heart, but of course I didn’t notice it at the time.
If there is anything I have taken away from my period abroad it’s the importance and blessing of community. It’s the realization that God moves powerfully and tangibly through His people. Whether it be the incredible family who hosted me, the lovely souls at Hillsong Paris who welcomed a lonely tourist in with open arms, or the few special moments shared with some unexpected people, I was reminded more than ever the effect the people around me have on who I am and who I am becoming. We are products of our environments and sums of our indulgences.
Sometimes I think about what advice I would give a younger me if I had the chance and this would definitely rank up there. I would tell myself that if I just opened my heart and let go of my pride, I would find myself blessed beyond words. I would tell myself that if I let go of my fear and opened myself up, I would find healing and love. I would tell myself if I took a chance and stepped out with even the most unexpected of individuals, I would have memories to last a lifetime.
Most importantly, I would tell myself all the ways that the God of the universe moved tangibly through His community — and that’s priceless.
Recommended Verses: Hebrews 10:24-25