16 Feb 2016

When Love is the Only Requirement for Authentic Community

…this is a guest post from a friend who knows what it’s like to feel trapped in your house and your skin and your stage in life. Thank you, Mary, for reminding us we’re not alone in those feelings.

Sometimes I feel trapped in my own home, because I have two young girls or because my husband works nights. Sometimes I feel left out when I don’t get invited somewhere or I get invited but can’t find a babysitter or money or energy to participate. And sometimes I think, on days I miss my friends flung across the map, that the friendships I’ve built are both the best and worst thing about social media.

But then I remember my friend Sara.

sara love

Sara Frankl was a friend and fellow blogger who suffered from an autoimmune disease and several complications. As I worked on the book that tells Sara’s story and shares her message of hope and joy, I was amazed and moved to read about how she refused to settle for isolation even after being confined to her condo for health reasons. Sara pursued community and invested deeply in relationships with her friends and family – not an easy task for someone stuck inside a condo for the last few years of her life. But she did it and she inspires me to keep pursuing and investing in my own life.

I invite you to read an excerpt of our book today, where Sara shares her perspective on a community that reached around the globe and rarely connected face to face but still nurtured her soul and represented the Body of Christ so well.

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In May of this year, my oldest nephew graduated from high school. Even at 18, when I ask Thomas if he knows how much I love him, he’ll respond with, “Around the world and back, Aunt Sara.” And he says it with the same certainty he did when he was three.

Knowing how I love him, you can imagine how much I wanted to be there to celebrate his accomplishment.

But I couldn’t be. I was here. As always.

There was a community of people around him, but I wasn’t one of them.

When my family was taking photos at his party, my mom and sisters posed for a photo, but it was hard for them to do. My sister Laura wasn’t sure they should. My mom said it just didn’t feel right to have one missing. My sister Janette, who has way too much confidence in me, convinced them both that I could Photoshop myself into the picture so it would seem like I was there.

I, of course, couldn’t. But I also didn’t think I should. I think there comes a time when we need to make sure we aren’t longing instead of living.

The truth is, I wasn’t there. Photoshopping myself into the photo wouldn’t have been reality.

And the reality is, even though I wasn’t physically there, physically in the photo, it doesn’t mean I’m not still a part of their community.

When I think of community, I think of Matthew 18:20 when Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” To me, the part that stands out is that they are gathered in His name. The people I love, the people who are in the community of my heart, are those who are gathered with God in their hearts. Because we all share that common bond of love and belief, we are all tied together – whether we are physically together or not.

I thought of that as I looked at the photo of my beautiful mom and sisters – and they are my community. I think of it as friends online, who I will most likely never meet, share their lives and hearts with me – and they are my community. I think of it as friends take me along in their everyday lives with video or take photos during their vacations just so I can get a glimpse of what they see – and they are my community.

I am always going to be physically separated from the rest of the world. I am always going to be isolated and homebound here in my condo. But I don’t have to be without community.

I don’t have to choose longing instead of living. Because we are gathered in His name, because we love and believe with hearts that love God more than ourselves, we are a community. A living, breathing community who has learned how to share our lives over any distance.

Jesus told us to do this life together, as a community. And because of Him, there are no boundaries. There is only the common bond of belief and love.

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If you enjoyed this excerpt from Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts, you can learn more about the book and its authors at TheChooseJoyBook.com.

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at www.givinguponperfect.com. Mary is the co-author of a new book called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. Released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016, CHOOSE JOY is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.

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