A group of people can come into your life and change it. This post is for those people.
You are dear to me. You’re an answer to a prayer I prayed two years before we met:
“Deepen the right friendships, Lord.
Lead me to the people who are or will be part of my close community. Amen.“
I’m not sure you realize the impact you have had on my life. For a while, I wouldn’t have been able to explain any of this to you. I didn’t even understand it yet.
When we met, I was at the end of a long healing season and in the middle of trying to find my place again. I had been away from our church for a few weeks, seeking new connections and wondering if I fit better in another community. It’s not that I didn’t have friends because I did then (and still do now). The fact is we go to a larger church and I didn’t always see my people on a Sunday morning. I felt lost in the crowd. And unless I reached out or planned some social fun during the week, interactions with friends were sporadic.
At the time, I didn’t have words for my internal struggle. Thomas Reynolds writes in Vulnerable Communion, “The basic question of human existence is whether there is welcome at the heart of things, whether we can find a home with others who recognize us, value us, and empower us to become ourselves…Is there a safe place where I can flourish? Will I be accepted and embraced?”
I was building friendships. But I didn’t fully feel like I belonged. I refused to listen to my own fears that I will be left out and my disability will get in the way. Having a disability means I can too often believe: I have to invite others into my life; I have to remove any discomfort; and I need to pursue people and be the planner.
I needed community, a deeper sense of being welcomed and accepted, gathered and connected. I prayed.
So as we all became friends, you didn’t know I was searching and I didn’t know how much I needed your presence.
The first night I met all of you, I felt overwhelmed for good reasons. You had invited me. It was a party full of new faces. You walked me around, introducing me to new people. You made it clear you wanted to know how to help me and it was no big deal.
You quickly became a constant in my life.
A couple of months later we had a deep, honest conversation as a group. One of you created the space to bridge the gap around the disability factor. You told me ahead of time that you had encouraged your friend, “She’s normal, she’s a human, she’s just Laura.”
The friend soon learned and said that night, “I’ve never met someone with a disability.”
Another spoke of fears.
Both confessed they had been uncomfortable.
We talked about many aspects and struggles I face, such as, “is it hard to always have someone around?” Questions were asked and I gladly answered, watching as you understood me and my world a little bit more.
We parted ways with hugs and you have consistently hugged me ever since.
That night I went home knowing we had connected on deeper levels.
I was aware that a shift was taking place within me. By you being you and welcoming me, I was already learning more about true friendship and what it really means to do life together.
A bridge called community was slowly being built. This was just the beginning.