Molly McNamara

Hidden Grace in Community

How we bond together can take on many different looks. Our deepest need for attachment is based on our essence, founded in the character of God (Psalms 139:16). There are both healthy and unhealthy attachments that are formed through community, as we let others into those private parts of ourselves. 

Building out a sense of family takes intentionality and a willingness to embrace the variety of ways in which relationships can be used to strengthen our place of belonging, validation, acceptance, understanding, vulnerability, and welcome. Family takes time to develop and an ability to embrace both joy and pain along the way. Attachments of a healthy nature build a bridge of trust where others are safe to be themselves alongside you – the bonds that connect a bridge of trust are joined together, one by one, a plank at a time - one choice after another.

Moses was placed in such a position, in Exodus 17. No way were the Israelites ready to fight the Amalekites, yet there they were. That battle would be primarily fought by God Himself, but not without a little help from some friends, Joshua, Aaron, and Hur.

How does that look today? Let’s take John (not his real name), he came from an abusive childhood where he was passed around like a hot potato from one family member to another. His mother wasn’t available much as she had ‘her own problems’ and John, in her eyes, seemed like just one more of those problems. John’s Dad had left them when he was 3 years old, and John quickly found ways to fend for himself. When as a young man, John came to know the Lord Jesus as his Savior, it was easy for him to just add Jesus as another trophy on the shelf of his growing number of successes. He was quite an accomplished adult but when it came to relationships, not so much.

Finding his highest value in those moments of success, John would find himself in repeated patterns where attention was given to him because of his vast knowledge. Most often John was showered with accolades from noteworthy leaders and his heart would swell with a sense of acceptance from those with whom he could agree. Where it got uncomfortable is when conversations seemed to bring a different viewpoint or challenge to what John believed as ‘right’. He would avidly avoid any such negative experience which might lead to a painful challenge by one or more who did not agree with his views. All his life it had seemed to John, he had had to prove his worth to someone else in order to be valued for his existence. Repeatedly, he found himself seeking to please someone else’s need or, defending his position or belief to the point of cutting off relationships rather face the pain.  

What John was missing was the grace that community is to bring to one another. In John’s example, he could receive others, if they conformed to what he considered ‘right’ but when inevitably things would go south, it would become impossible to stick around. He would sense others’ discomfort and feel trapped in the resignation of either becoming a doormat for whatever the other person wanted or, exiting the relationship altogether. When we are not able to hear and receive corrections, we will develop offense. John found it very, very hard to deal with close relationships. 

Why is community key for John’s story, John Sandford once said, “We are wounded in relationship and we are to be, healed in relationship.” Relationships start with recognizing our own limited viewpoint and any areas of woundedness which may be blocking our true identity. These triggering areas relate to unresolved trauma and can be difficult to see, especially a lack of nurture. However, such blockages build a false refuge that will filter our view of others, ourselves, and God. 

Part of God’s plan of restoration includes community to help us break through unhealthy attachments of the past and come to see our true value based on God’s grid, not our own. Sometimes this takes moments when a direct word from the community is necessary so that we can come to recognize these areas where God is trying to get our attention. 
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