I sat eating at the table feeling anxious as my turn to share was approaching. It was our first House Fellowship group meeting. My introverted side came out, or maybe it was just an excuse for the shame and fear attached to vulnerability. I have always struggled with perfectionism and people-pleasing, so being able to be real about my own insecurities, shame, and struggles with comparison has left me silent too many times thinking that I must be the only crazy person wrestling with these things. Because I grew up in a ministry family and care deeply about the thoughts of others, I gravitate toward perfectionism. Being in this house fellowship setting made me realize that in other church settings it is much easier to hide.
Some churches have the trendiest music, programs, and of course the best coffee; but many times people can sit next to one-another in a dim-lit sanctuary and barely know each other’s names. As Christians we often proclaim the importance of community and vulnerability, and yet we don’t know our neighbors, see our coworkers outside of the office, or gather with church members any time other than Sunday. Community, authenticity, and vulnerability have simply become buzz-words (at least within the American Christian context). In essence, we seem to have cheapened the potential and opportunity for spiritual formation. What is left is a shell called “community” which lacks any form of intimacy. In our instant digital age, people are more than ever longing for true intimacy and connection. However, although we are more connected to one another than ever before in history, we are lacking intimacy.
Intimacy and vulnerability does not mean sharing all things with all people. It means sharing with those who have earned the right to hear our story because hearing our story is a privilege.1 One of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, a research professor of social work, has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Her work has deeply impacted my life as I wrestle with shame, fear, and vulnerability and what it looks like to have the courage to “show up.” In her documentary, The Call to Courage, she states, “Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability. And you don’t measure it by the amount of disclosure. You measure it by the amount of courage it takes to show up and be ourselves without knowing the outcome.”2 Showing up and being ourselves without knowing the outcome takes immense courage. This ordinary and yet extraordinarily transformational courage allows us to experience intimacy and vulnerability.
Intimacy in community is messy. In my life, I seek to be a peacemaker but as I result, I also tend to avoid conflict. Although desiring peace and harmony is not bad in and of itself, I’ve realized that avoidance of conflict can create a sense of fake intimacy with others, glossing over problems or not being fully vulnerable and authentic. We all long for intimacy, yet we’re terrified of being exposed for who we truly are. Intimacy requires vulnerability and showing up even though the outcome is unknown. Jean Vanier speaks about this refining nature of community by noting, “Community life is there to help us, not to flee from our deep wound, but to remain with the reality of love. It is there to help us believe that our illusions and egoism will be gradually healed if we become nourishment for others. We are in community for each other, so that all of us can grow and uncover our wound before the infinite, so that Jesus can manifest himself through it.”3 Intimacy reminds us that we are in this journey together. Imperfectly, but together.
Upon further reflection, I believe I felt uncomfortable at our first House Fellowship meeting because I knew that being part of the Body of Christ in this way was going to take risk without knowing the outcome. It would mean risk sharing my own insecurities and what others may think about me. I didn’t need to share everything about my life with everyone present, but I did need to have the ordinary courage to step out and be seen by others.
Our House Fellowship meets weekly in a home and our time together centers around a meal as we share how we’ve seen God at work that week in our lives. We wrestle with what it looks like to abide more deeply in Christ as individuals and as a community as well as how to live more missionally within our contexts. We sing, pray, and practice rhythms of spiritual formation together. As a community we support one another through the ups and downs of ordinary life as we grow together in habits of discipleship and mission.4
Being part of this House Fellowship has helped me realize that intimacy with God increases our intimacy with others, and intimacy with others increases our intimacy with God. We are not meant to do life alone, and we were created for connection. Connection with our Creator and connection with our community. Connection that requires risk and courage to show up without knowing the outcome. May God give us the grace to step into greater intimacy with Him and others despite the risk.
Laura grew up as a missionary kid in Peru and Argentina, which has given her a heart for the world. She was drawn to Word Made Flesh because of their holistic vision for incarnational, restorative, and sustainable ministry with communities around the world. As International Office Manager, Laura is honored to collaborate with local and international staff members and partners to help increase WMF’s collective Kingdom-impact.
Laura graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Social Work and from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2018 with a Master of Arts in Leadership. Laura and her husband, Matthew, live in Wilmore and enjoy traveling, going on walks, hanging out with friends, and discovering new great places to eat (one of their favorites being Metropolitan Donuts in Lexington).
Connect with Laura: firstname.lastname@example.org
1Brené Brown. The Gifts of Imperfection. (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2010), 47.
2Brené Brown. The Call to Courage. (Netflix, 2019).
3Jean Vanier. Community and Growth (Revised Edition). (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2003), 330.
4Inspire Movement. “House Fellowship.” InspireMovement.com. https://inspiremovement.org/house-fellowship/