7/12/2019 3 Comments
Cultivating Community in Colorado
Developing A New Mindset For Isolation + For Missions
I have always liked to define myself as being quite independent, isolated, introverted, individualistic. I thrive in solitude — I am more creative, confident, calm, centered when I am left to myself. While great benefit + value, strength + satisfaction may be found in this state, I have learned that it is not meant to dwell in continuously.
In Genesis 2:18-22, God created Eve as a much needed companion for Adam. We, too, were created as social, relational beings not meant to function alone. We were wired for life to be lived with meaningful, worthwhile relationships.
The pendulum of this isolated lifestyle can quickly swing over to a state of loneliness — leaving us with feelings of loss, emptiness, unworthiness. The Father reminds us in His word that those feelings are far from the truth. He guides us (Psalm 73:23), fills us (Exodus 31:3, Ephesians 3:19), frees us (Psalm 27:16-17). In Psalm 139:13-15 we are told of our purposeful, intricate creation, He has given us a spirit of confidence + power (2 Timothy 1:7), and Luke 12:6-7 reminds us that we are fully known + full of worth.
There must be some sense of balance between solitude + socialization. There is a need for accountability — to be fully known + fully loved not just by my Father but also by those who walk beside me, who can press in + push me toward growth in my walk with Jesus. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 teaches of the importance of being surrounded by other believers, especially to help build us up + lift us up when we have fallen. It is impossible to mature my relationship with the Lord in isolation; the only option alone is stagnancy. In isolation, I may not necessarily be drifting backward, but I am surely not making any progress forward. Through opening up + being vulnerable, allowing the dark parts of myself to be seen by others, I can work to strengthen the aspects that are on the right track + aim to improve those that are not serving to benefit myself or my walk.
God has really been pressing in + making me aware of this isolation tendency of mine for awhile now, but since being in Denver, the concept of community + fellowship has really been emphasized + experienced. For the first time in my life, I have genuine accountability partners that are real with me + I feel comfortable in being open to them. They push me to be better, encourage me when the devil gets into my head, and teach me how to handle various situations maturely + like Christ would. Further, God has been teaching me a lot about Himself + His character through these people that surround me. I see passion, grace, generosity, genuine care, love. I am able to see + experience these unique attributes of the Father because He created each of us in His image — each with different gifts, talents, bits + pieces that work together to function + reflect Him (Ephesians 4:16).
In addition to the importance of community, I have been enlightened with the importance of solitude as well. Recently, as I have come across this understanding of God’s intention for us to be relational beings + dwell in company, I have been harsh + gotten down on myself for the way that I have been operating solo for the majority of my time. However, the two are not in conflict with one another, yet require a balance in our lives in order to operate. We must ultimately learn to create a productive rhythm of fellowship + seclusion, conversation + silence. Jesus modeled this as he took time away by himself with the Father (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35). I don’t believe we were made to have the capacity or energy to keep up with others all of the time (we receive this solely from the Lord apart from ourselves), but we aren’t to remain in this solitary state forever either. Each have a distinctive place + purpose in our lives + our walk with Christ.
Lastly, being in Denver has taught me a lot about how to go about fellowship + cultivating community. Previously, I understood service + mission trips as going out to help someone — physically, emotionally, financially, or most importantly, spiritually. A mission trip, understandably, meant that there was some underlying mission to be accomplished. Until recently, I never understood how wrong this mindset was in going out to reach people for Christ. Rather than following Jesus’ example of relational missional living, we see a group of people or an individual as someone in need of something that we can provide; a project or goal that we can accomplish. Going in with this demeanor + mindset is surprisingly evident to the person that you are trying to reach + will most likely make them highly resistant to whatever help or message you are trying to transfer to them.
The alternative to this process is modeled in the life of Christ (John 4:7-42, 5:1-15). He asked questions + then took the time to listen to their ideas, thoughts, perspectives, feelings. Through this process, He meets the person where they’re at, helps them to discern what it is they desire, + then what it is they ultimately need (which is God, not us).
The main purpose in what I am doing in Colorado is to form relationships with people. Not to change them or to fix them, but to genuinely listen to them + show care for them; just as Christ did to the people He interacted with. I have been astounded + overwhelmed by the individuals I have met + the stories they’ve told, baggage they carry, passions they hold. While I still cherish + delight in my time alone, I have come to love engaging with people around me — another beautiful, wonderful piece of the Father’s creation.
Side note: Here are some pictures from some Colorado nature time (my favorite!)
7/13/2019 11:08:46 am
This is SO good! It's really amazing to watch how you are growing because of your experience of being "on mission" in Denver. I know I won't get this right, but there is a saying about how when you give, you get so much more in return. I'd say this is especially true in your situation. You went out there with a servant's heart - ready to do whatever God had in store for you. Your obedience has been partially rewarded on earth by this personal and spiritual growth that's been given by Him. And to get to know God better - what better reward could there be than a closer walk with and more intimate knowledge of our heavenly Father. So, now that you are in your final weeks in Denver, I pray that you will finish strong, that you will continue to grow in all these ways, and that you will continue to shine the Light of the gospel to that community there and to the worldwide community through this blog. I'm so proud of you, and I love you very much!
Pappaw & Meemaw
7/14/2019 04:14:20 pm
Oh, how wonderful and gracious the Lord is to let us become whole and holy as we allow His precious Holy Spirit to reveal and strip off layers of our personal and deepest spiritual lives to be transformed for His service! Our beloved Kristen, we rejoice with you for the freedom which you are finding in Christ as your faith grows and you are making yourself available to new challenges and opportunities that are proving to be such great avenues of opportunities. Isn't this the method that Christ used as He went about His ministry? As a result He was most often criticized for His socialization and building eternal relationships rather than cloistering Himself with those in the religious community? In other words, He made Himself available to where mankind lived in the many areas of their human brokenness. He loved people, doing His Father's work and was very social, but He also had the balance of spending time in solitude with His Father, regaining spiritual, emotional and physical refreshing. So yes, balance is a must in all of our lives to really live productively and positively. Forming relationships for your and others' edification and all for the honor and glory of God are because of the greatest gift of all, love! it is founded on the greatest gift of all - love, God's love! (I Cor. 13:13) God's love initiated the plan of redemption for man with Jesus coming to fallen mankind(John 3:16). When we are able to love others through His eyes, ears, heart, we are then fit to do His work. It is the joy of relationships with our Father and others that are formed which so enrich our lives and bring greater unity and fellowship with God. We are very thankful that you are finding such freedom in Christ and His service with your acts of spiritual worship as you are gradually being liberated with the renewing of your mind. (Rom. 12:1-2) We so admire and appreciate your transparency to share this deeply personal reflection of yourself with us. We so enjoyed the pictures and the highlighted Scriptures. We love you so much and thank God that He is doing in your life to greater equip you for more and better service in the future. Pappaw & Meemaw
7/14/2019 08:00:20 pm
It’s so good to see how God is teaching you things about Him and yourself in Denver. I’m glad that He has given you boldness to go out into the community to tell others about Him. It’s great that you are making good relationships while in Denver. I enjoyed your scriptures and pictures of God’s beautiful scenery. I love you!
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