Henri Nouwen once said, "The search for community is a deeply human search and I have felt that the ideal community remains mostly the object of my hopes and dreams."
Connecting with others can be very difficult. It is always risky to some degree and there is never a guarantee that you will get out of it what you put in.
Nevertheless, the converse is a life that is below the line of true humanity. God has created us social and each of us needs significant connection regardless of if we admit it or not.
The church, at its best, creates those spaces for life-giving connection. It can foster the sense that we are loved, known and not alone.
Sadly, like every other place where humans aspire to live well, at times, it falls short of what is advertised...or as Nouwen states, "I have felt that the ideal community remains mostly the object of my hopes and dreams."
There is no easy path, no fail-safe approach. To be in community and to be with others puts us in the line for hurt, but also in the space where true human kindness can be experienced and there is opportunity to live fully human... at least for a moment.
Here are two things that I have found to be, at least to some degree, helpful:
1. Proximity - You have to place yourself in spaces where others (hopefully, semi-healthy others) are. You can walk away from groups still very much alone, but the other side of the coin is also true. You simply cannot experience connection without entering those spaces.
2. Consistency - The hard rub in this discussion is, it simply takes time. A person cannot step into communal spaces for a moment, like putting your toe in a pool, and back away. That is the fastest way to arrive at the false conclusion that community just doesn't work. Show up. Be present. Don't rush off, even if it is uncomfortable for you. Do it a couple of months in a row (maybe even a year), not once or twice.
In the Immanuel sphere, the fastest, potentially highest payoff route for this is in one of our Life Together Groups. Let me say first, they aren't magic. They can disappoint, but to eat around a table, pray some, consider the Bible some and know some other person by name are all social lubricants to begin to sense belonging.
Would you give one a try? Hey, maybe even, if you are feeling courageous, provide one for others to participate? Either way, I want to encourage you to give one a try!