Immeasurably more. The thousands of women who bravely stepped forward to be part of the (in)RL community? The ones who met brand new friends in brand new places, the ones who watched on their own from the comfort of their sofas, the ones who gathered two or three together? More than we could have ever imagined.
After a crazy week, I was feeling less than prepared for (in)RL. I knew how awesome it was going to be. I knew that I had amazing friends who were helping to carry the load of hosting, but my heart just wasn’t ready. It was overwhelmed with timelines, Twitter responsibilities, Facebook pages, uploads, photos, emails…oh the emails… and insecurities about being in the (in)RL program this year (goodness why did no one tell me I laugh too loud, said nothing particularly enlightening & that outfit wasn’t as cute as I thought?). I didn’t feel qualified.
And on top of it all, the enemy was doing his level best to attack me physically – during Friday and up until the minute our meet up was over, I fought illness. Y’all, the enemy is not a fan of community because, as Lisa-Jo Baker puts it: Christ is community. I was an emotional mess as hubs took care of our crying daughter so I could be on Twitter Friday night- encouraging me that in that moment, I was where God needed me – the same husband then prayed over me & this community of women before I left the house Saturday (again, more tears), and then told me when it was all over how proud he was (yep. more tears).
So I did what any normal person does in those situations, I started talking out loud in my car, to God, on Friday afternoon, driving between offices. And He revealed something to me.
There is no better example of community than God.
He pursues us.
He is love.
There is nothing new about community that we can come up with that He hasn’t already shown us. I remember listening to Sally Clarkson speak at Allume last year, telling us that the way she finds community is to pursue it herself. She finds friends. She invites them into her life. She pursues the relationship, makes plans, and creates community. God pursues relationships with us – so much that He sent His son to earth for us, so that He could be present, walk with us, live life with us.
And then alll weekend we watched videos about the challenge to stay in community. To do the hard thing and keep going back until God calls us to move on. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been hurt by community, I’ve shared parts of my own story over at (in)courage, but I am also living, walking, breathing proof that God redeems bad community through good community. When we can’t see the reason for the broken, lonely moments, God knows. He knows what we’ll walk through in the future, and He knows what we need to work through now so that we can have hearts ready for that moment. And in the hard parts? The good parts? The lonely parts and in between parts? God stays. He stands with us.
And we love. Because He first loved us.
So we met together. Friends from birth, friends for decades, new friends. We broke bread (possibly in the form of donuts) and drank coffee. We shared about community and how God is changing lives & hearts online and through technology. We laughed, shopped, did our nails, and stole moments to catch up, snuggled on comfy sofas and seated at kitchen tables.
We stepped away from the screens and out of our comfort zones to love one another in real life. God met us there over fake mustaches and massages, over sweet hugs and beautiful giveaways. We chose to show up. My sisters were brave and chose to meet me. They were gracious as I stumbled through telling them why I love this community so much. And we choose now to stay. To pursue one another, encourage one another. To live life together.
Because life together with my sisters is immeasurably more beautiful than I could ever begin to imagine.