The vulnerability of community

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Has your speech ever betrayed you? There is a saying that if you let someone talk long enough, they will tell on themselves. In far too many personal experiences, I have found this saying to be true. Many times, I had the intention of keeping something to myself but instead, I opened my mouth and spilled the proverbial beans. Sometimes, just in conversation, I find that I have said too much, and I later must repent for it.

Recently, I was attending a women’s group discussion. It was my first time attending the group. I gave myself a pep talk prior to my arrival that I would sit, listen, jot down notes and nod my head. “Don’t talk, just listen,” I kept repeating this to myself as the voices of a dozen women bounced one comment to another across my face. I was doing well for about 20 minutes but then the discussion moved to one of my favorite topics — community.

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One of the attendees shared that she had been convicted during the discussion because she had been without a church home for some time. She requested that the women pray for her. The facilitator of the group responded to the request by comforting her and then saying, “We will certainly pray, as it is so important for us to have fellowship with a church community.” Before I knew it, my lips opened, and I emphatically stated, “Yes, it is,” with an added vigorous nodding of my head. Well, I think the breaking of my silence on the subject must have slightly offended the attendee, because she looked me squarely in the eye and stated “I don’t need a church. I am good. Me and my Bible study are good. Believe me, I am good.”

It was not my intent to be confrontational. Yet, clearly, my passionate affirmation of the facilitator’s comment was not to the woman’s liking. I really had not meant to offend. I was only agreeing with the facilitator that no matter how much we think a faith community is not required, it is greatly indispensable. I listened as another attendee invited the woman to her church and then bowed my head when the facilitator prayed. I kept my head bowed after the ‘Amen’ and dismissal as not to make eye contact with the woman again. I pray that there will be subsequent opportunities to see her in future group discussions. In time, I believe we will come to know each other better, and that will clear up the misunderstanding.

This run-in with my run-on lips caused me to ponder and grieve. I do not know this woman’s back story. But it is obvious that there is one. It pains me to think of what must be closing her off to the opportunity to fellowship in a local faith community. Her speech was betraying her. It is not just about belonging to a church.

Everything happens for a reason. I opened my mouth at the right time. My unplanned injection to the group discussion exposed her real prayer request. It is her need to be vulnerable in community. We are not made to carry certain things. The truth is that life itself is burdensome and very weighty. We are unable to bear it alone. I believe we are lying to ourselves to think otherwise.

In the next weeks, I will share a series on the vulnerability of community. Join me as we unmask the potential enrichment to our lives through the rubbing of elbows and potentially being rubbed the wrong way. Vulnerability in community is good for you.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.