I'm a pretty independent person, naturally. For example, I'd rather look something up than ask someone for information. I also learned independence at a pretty young age because it was necessary for me to survive. For a while, I even went overboard on my independence and tried to get along without any community or interdependence (that didn't work!). Thankfully, I came back from that place to a place with more balance. But still, one of the hardest things that I have to do is make a conscious choice to let people love me, help me, and walk beside me.
I think that the church in our culture has somewhat adopted the value of self-sufficiency. Sure, we'll talk about community--about how we should pray for one another and help one another and reach out. We might even acknowledge that we should be working in the community, bringing justice or providing for needs. But when we show up on Sundays, we often try to leave our baggage at home. Because the church isn't always a safe place to bring our brokenness and our needs. Sometimes we bring those things and people judge us. Sometimes we bring those things and people don't seem to care enough to do something. It's always a risk, and so we learn not to try. It's safer that way.
But when we take that attitude to our relationships with people who don't know Jesus, we're missing out on some amazing things. First is the way the dynamics of a mutual relationship are so much different than the dynamics of a relationship where I'm trying to offer you something. When we have a mutual relationship, when there is give and take of information and love and care and concern, then we have a relationship where we are both influencing one another. We have an opportunity to invest deeply and to get to know someone on a deeper level than if we maintain a position of power in the relationship.
When my dad died this year, my friends surrounded me. Some of my friends go to church, but many do not, and many are not followers of Jesus. They showed up, they cared about me, and they loved me. As a result, I've been invited into their lives at a different level than I was before. No more are we just casual acquaintances--we're truly friends. And as friends, we are able to share from the heart about all kinds of things, including faith.
When was the last time you were vulnerable with someone who's not a follower of Jesus? Is there a need you have right now that your friends might be able to meet? Think and pray about who and how to invite someone into the broken or needy places of your life this week.