Community takes risks to grow closer

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

If you’ve missed the last few posts, I’ve been thinking a lot about community and how a virtual community can be a living, vital part of society. How people can make a difference in each other’s lives despite never having met in person, how an online community might work together to make a difference in the world.

Being a part of a community involves a certain amount of risk. You have to be willing to let people in, to share parts of your heart that you might not be entirely comfortable sharing, to take relationships a step further in order to get to know people better. For an introvert like me (and I suspect I’m not alone!) the temptation with online communities is to keep strictly to your comfort zone. It’s comfortable “speaking” through the keyboard, in emails and blog posts and within the safe confines of the comment box.

Last week, I was blessed to have the opportunity to take a step out of my comfort zone…twice!

A dear online friend had a family crisis, and I could feel her heart breaking through the words of her email. It broke my heart not to be able to jump into the car, drive over to her house and be with her…and email just wasn’t enough. I realized I needed to hear her voice, needed to be able to talk freely with her and connect in a different way than through written words. We exchanged phone numbers, and spent a long while talking. Dialing the number was a little hard for me…I am not particularly good on the phone and I was nervous. Would we be able to connect the way we do through email? I needn’t have worried, our conversation flowed as easily as if we talked on the phone every day.

Then, fellow blogger L.L. Barkat gave me a call regarding a blogging matter. The phone rang, and I looked at caller ID. “Barkat”? Could this possibly be the L.L. Barkat? I couldn’t believe that I was talking with her, in “real life!” And she sounded just like I’d imagine she would, from her blogs. She’s as sweet and encouraging on the phone as she is in writing. It made my week! Again, I felt the deepening of relationships, the stepping forward out of my comfort zone and into something better.

So many times I’ve indulged myself with the sweet thought that one day, in God’s Kingdom, I’ll get to meet all these dear friends in real life. Real life, and we’ll have eternity to sit together and enjoy a cup of warm tea, some peach pie, and as many hours of conversation as we could ever want. I will still treasure this dream, but along with it I’m thinking…maybe on this side of heaven we can find new ways to deepen these relationships, to help and encourage each other. Maybe we should commit to moving just a little out of our comfort zones and reaching out in a different way.

Of course, discretion is important. We should always be careful with what we share online and be cautious when it comes to giving out too much information. And if you’re reading this and you’re not over, say, age 22, don’t even think about giving your phone number to anyone over the Internet! But for many of us, thinking outside the (comment) box can be a great thing. Is there someone you’ve known online for a long time, and always wanted to talk to? Consider picking up the phone. Take a risk to grow closer, to build community. It will bless you!

Photo: stock photo

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