GNO’s and NGO’s – how authentic community heals

 

I sat on the floor of her formal living room. I don’t think I had ever been in there before that night. We usually walked by the serious room and made our way to the family room. The room with the large couches and TV. The off white carpet between my toes in the middle of February that winter night. Hummus, nuts, chocolate laid out on the table before us. Chai tea steaming in the kitchen as we each took our places.
We had been having our GNO’s ( Girl’s Night Out)  for years. We would meet at coffee shops restaurants, bakeries. We each had our favorite spots and each month we knew it was something to look forward to. We made a commitment to the friendship that we would pick at least one time each month that we would all four set apart for each other. When I was in Africa I just pretended like they stopped. Like one of the four wasn’t there so they stopped talking and having any fun. That is what I told myself. That the fun stopped because I wasn’t there. Very humble of me.

These girls know everything about me. I am my best when I am with them. I sometimes am my worst as well. They have traveled across the world with me to Liberia and have seen first-hand the work of selfless people living their lives in servanthood. And we have been there when babies are being born or brought home. We have inside jokes that no one else gets. We also have inside pain that no one will ever hear.

That winter night as we sat on the floor around the coffee table I shook with fear as my truth was revealed. We had not gotten together as a group since I had come home two months before. Depression had stolen the normal rhythm out of my life. And the truth was is that I was afraid. I was afraid to be outside. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of night. I was afraid of myself.

I sat with my back slouched over with tears rolling down my face and admitted why we were here. In her home. Not out in public. Not dressed up and feeling fancy. Because what I was feeling was far from fancy, I was feeling raw and exposed. I had just told my truth. Told the truth about what PTSD was doing to my mind and my reality. I felt on that night that I may be saying goodbye to this normal. My life as it was I believed this too would be over. I was no longer going to function in their world if I were to expose the monster inside of me.

But this is the thing. When you have authentic relationships in your life. They don’t leave. They don’t follow any rules. They lean in. They see the pain and come closer.

So I told my truth. The truth that Satan was having a field day with my sanity.

The silence in the room was beckoning mercy to come forth.

Pain and truth had opened the door for a new layer of trust to be born.

And born it was.

These women sat on the floor next to me crying. Not for me. With me. They were entering into the pain and not leaving. They were not getting on their theological soap boxes and quoting scripture at me. They were not deleting me from Facebook. They were not thinking of a way to escape, they were crying.

They were putting a stake in the ground and deciding that what I was going through did not define who I was to them.
So we sat and we cried. We cried for the honesty that was revealed. We cried for the reality that things may change. We cried until I was done crying.

Authentic community does that. Someone very wise recently told me that “Authenticity is not bulimic truth telling. Digest the pain. Then share wisely.”

I chose very carefully who I told my truth to that night. I was living a hell inside my head that a casserole could not heal.

My pain needed a safe place to heal.

That night if I am being honest was one of the most difficult nights of my life. I was terrified that I was out of the house. I had come to the table a shell of who I used to be and yet the three most beautiful friendships were made clear.

They were my safe place. They were my net. They were where my truth would be sheltered and held.

That is what we all need. We all need those in our life that have seen us at our unhealthiest and choose to stay.

They may not agree with you. They may argue with you. They may even be Republican. But they stay. They stay and love you and laugh with you and heal with you.

They have become the filter I put every relationship through. How authentic can you be with me and how safe are you that I can be the same with you?

I believe very strongly that Jesus calls us into community.

But when he was at the table. When he was with his twelve or one on one is where true community happened.

It happens when we allow ourselves a safe place to be heard. A safe place to be understood. A safe place that is sheltered and held. A safe place where truth can be revealed.

 

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Comments

  1. Sheli, thanks so much for writing this. I always read comments about people having tears in their eyes when they read something and now I know what that’s like. I have PTSD too and it’s been so RIGHT THERE lately that I’m at a loss when it comes to daily life. When I find others who KNOW what it’s like I want to jump in the car and knock on their door and give them a full-frontal hug with maybe some shoulder snot. I also cry because it makes me feel like I’m not crazy and alone. I need more people like you in my life.

    • shelimassie says:

      Oh sweet girl, you are not alone. I understand completely that you feel this way. There is hope and healing in the process. And freedom when you find those that speak the same pain. Lifting you up right now.

  2. I was so encouraged to hear about the safety of good friends, friends who commit to pray for you, love you despite your unloveliness. You ooze love, grace, acceptance, authenticity. Thank you for opening your heart like you do. It speaks to me.

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