The Nitty Gritty of Community

A strange thing happened in the last days of Kara’s illness: people—strangers—got a sneak peek into her life and that of my church and community. As a blogger, she posted almost every day (sometimes multiple times a day) about looking for grace in the midst of saying her final goodbyes. She posted hundreds of pictures that showed her in dark moments and joyful moments. They showed us girlfriends gathering together, laughing, crying. They showed friends rubbing her feet, cuddling with her in bed, praying over her. Through her writings, she painted a beautiful picture of community, of doing life together in the midst of the hardest of circumstances.

I miss her dreadfully, and I miss those moments of community with all the girls. You see, she was a gatherer; she loved to gather us, and so much joy was shared in those times. So much love was spread and hearts were encouraged. And we felt like we could walk the journey of her long goodbye because we all had each other. Which proved to be true.

And yet, what I have learned is that the nitty gritty of doing community well doesn’t often happen in large gatherings or parties or church services or small groups—it happens in the dark, quiet, painful moments. The moments so hard you aren’t certain where your next breath will come from.

Kara and I shared many of these moments, texting about death, talking about her children, dreaming about Heaven, planning her memorial service. We tried to laugh, too, reminding each other of the joy to come, but these were often moments to survive. Moments I spent praying frantically, desperate to love her well and effectively.

Other friends and I had similar moments together—the nitty gritty moments of praying together, pleading to God on behalf of our friend, crying together, processing together. We needed these times to be encouraged and renewed. To teach each other how to do grief together. To remind each other of the nearness of God.

When we witness community done well, we only see a snapshot of the big picture—often just the joyful fruit of those unseen harder moments sitting in lions’ dens with one another, supporting and encouraging, praying for and weeping with, struggling to find air to breathe, grieving. All done together. And this is the nitty gritty that provides the foundation for those sweet moments of carefree gatherings full of hope and joy.

Have you experienced the nitty gritty of doing life together and building relationships? What have you learned about moving toward friends in the hard times? What does community look like that has worked through these nitty gritty moments together?