I’m an introvert, and an only child, and I’ve always been a little insecure about friendship. I think it stems from hearing one too many comment about other girls in the bathrooms in middle school, from often being the only one in a relationship to reach out and make plans, from being surface-level friends with people I did activities with but never seeing them outside of that context. I always have this nagging suspicion that everyone is hanging out without me, a suspicion that is sometimes unfortunately reinforced by pictures on social media. It’s sort of a trust thing–I will have a hard time believing that you like me unless you practically say to me, “Laura, you are my friend and I like you.” I’m working on it, but it’s difficult. And for what it’s worth, I have some wonderful people in my life who, when I’ve confessed that to them, have looked me in the eye and told me what I needed to hear.
Honestly, being married is comforting for someone like me. I’ve always thrived in deep-rooted one-on-one relationships. I’m not the life of the party or a social butterfly, but at most points in my life I’ve had a small group of super tight friends. Marriage is the most beautiful expression of that. Even though I am stupid sometimes and worry that I’m not lovable, those vows we shared say, “Laura, you are my friend and I like you.”
At the last church I was involved in, we had neighborhood-centric community groups. We met twice a month–once as a large group to plan and carry out service projects, and once as a gender-specific smaller group to do discipleship and Bible study. I had a great group of women that I met with for two years. It was a strange dynamic–we shared incredibly deep, emotional stories with each other but never went shopping or to the movies together. I would certainly have called them friends, though, as they knew a lot about me and helped me think through some difficult patches in my life. I convinced myself that it was okay that we were only “friends” in that context and that maybe that’s just how adult friendships worked. But I always kind of wanted more, since I felt like kindred spirits with them, and tried to reach out a few times when I was doing casual social things.
But then a funny thing happened: I didn’t rejoin the group this past year and have since effectively stopped going to church, and I have barely seen a single one of them. After the first month or so of my dropping off the church map, no one even tried to reach out. No one said, “I miss seeing you at church, Laura.” No one said, “I read on your blog that you’re taking a hiatus from church, but I’d still love to get coffee with you.” No one said, “How are you doing?”
And that hurt a lot and played directly into my insecurities about relationships.
In fact, I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a long time, but it felt too raw until just recently.
And what happened was I think I found my people.
One night after a Rails Girls meetup, I felt uncharacteristically energized by my social interactions. I felt entirely at home in the environment. I felt accepted.
Church was a place of love and family for me from the very beginning, but what happened when I decided to leave it rocked my belief in that. I feel like a statistic. I feel like one of those millennials who has Left the Church. That’s authentically just where I am right now.
And the response from those people who had been my family makes me question everything I thought it was.
Because what is community if it’s not reaching out to someone you miss? (Maybe the answer is that they never really missed me.) What is community if it’s not including people in your life and making connections?
My experience after leaving the Community Group does not jive with how I define community.
My community is texting a friend when I see someone with a tote bag that I think she would like. My community is inviting my neighbors to a housewarming party even though I am wary of making myself that vulnerable. My community is being open and honest and telling people how I feel.
If that’s not your community, then I’m not sure I want to be a part of it. And that is heartbreaking to me.