It's 1am, and I can't sleep. My heart is heavy and my mind is full of unpleasantness.
I shouldn't be feeling like this; lonely, angry, and upset. I've spent the past few days having a great time with people I love. But still, seeing the Instagram stories from dozens of friends who are hanging out at something I wasn't invited to - it hurts. A lot.
And I know that I'm not alone in this. The more I speak openly to people around me, the more I discover others who feel the same way: rejected, excluded, forgotten, and isolated.
I hear these fears from all sides of our community. Even from the people I look at and think, ‘they're a cool person, they're in the thick of the group, there's no way they'd ever feel left out’.
Over coffee with a close friend this week, I poured out my sadness and frustration. "Why can't we be a community that includes everyone?” I asked her. “How do we change this culture of cliques and exclusivity?” We talked for hours, about what we'd love things to be like and how we can bring change.
I had more and more questions. Like, ‘What about when you’re limited by space or resources and logistically CAN’T invite everyone? What then?’
I’m here to say that I don't have the answers. I'm on a journey of learning what real community looks like, and how to bring Heaven here to earth.
But I do find, as I go back into God’s word, that Jesus showed us how to do community well. He wasn't close friends with everyone. He had his 12 disciples, and a handful of other followers, and they were his go-to people. His group. The ones he shared meals with and prayed amongst. But when I read about Jesus, I also see how he never turned someone away.
Jesus didn’t exclude people from being near Him because they were outcasts, or because they came at an inconvenient time. He didn't ask people not to show up to his teachings because he found them draining or annoying or didn't ‘click’ with them. He didn't try to be close friends with absolutely everyone, and (probably) didn't wear himself thin organising coffee-catchups with six people a week, but He DID teach on the importance of community. And I believe that he showed us the perfect example of how to do that well.
Exclusion hits a raw nerve for me, as I'm sure it does for a lot of us.
The tough reality is that when we’re part of a large community, we can't always invite everyone to everything. And I get that. Space can be limited. Budgets can be tight. We may not know everyone.
But I‘m starting to believe it's possible to create a CULTURE of inclusivity and healthy community. To ask God what that looks like for each of us. To make sure our heart is to pursue things that will build each other up, and not tear each other down.
I know I’m guilty of making others feel excluded. Sometimes I post things on my Instagram story because I want people to feel a twinge of jealousy when they see what I'm doing. I want them to know that I'm happy on my own and that I’m not (always) an introverted, anxious mess sitting at home in my pyjamas. And if I'm really honest, sometimes I want the people who haven't invited me to know that 'I'm fine without them' and that 'I had more fun not being at their event anyway’.
But I want to own up to that this year. I want to be conscious of the niggling thoughts and hidden agendas in the dark places of my heart, the ones that care more about promoting my self-image than fostering integrity and love.
And I want to do everything I can to make this community a place where fear of rejection or isolation has no hold over us. A community built on trust and hospitality and generosity, and not fraught with division or comparison or bitterness or insecurity.
Let's be the kind of people who are so busy welcoming and including and giving generously, that we barely take note of what people are doing without us.
The kind of people who are secure enough in who we are, and WHOSE, that not being invited doesn't feel like a personal blow.
Who's in? x
p.s. This year my housemates and I are opening our home once a month for anyone and everyone to come share a meal with us and hang out. You're invited! Shoot me a message for the deets, we'd love to have you there.