I remember a time when I was at a young age– I had done something wrong, and in response to my actions someone close to me spoke words that made me feel isolated from real community: “You aren’t going to have any friends if you act like this. You’re going to be really lonely when you are older.”
What I heard that day was this: “If you let people really get to know you, no one will want to be friends with you.”
Many of us live in a society that tells us to be careful who we let in, open up to, and share our weaknesses with. We are continually told through media and other sources that our lives will thrive in perfection and appeasing our peers. Without Jesus, it is easy to fall into the trap and become plagued by insecurity and fear of what people might think if they knew just how messy our life truly is.
Where the Journey Starts
I want to share my story with you- the story of how God spoke identity and love into me as I found a community that changed my life. I pray that it encourages you to pursue godly fellowship with willingness to be vulnerable, for James 5:16 says “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”
Growing up, I was consumed by the fear of rejection. I lived an isolated life, believing it was better to be lonely and keep my distance from people than to be turned away by them. I became perfectionistic, trying to earn the approval of those around me without having to let them into my life. I was convinced that my identity was rooted in what others thought about me, and I lived a life that reflected that.
As I got older, I started stepping into leadership roles within my church. I was deeply struggling, and at times I would find someone to confide in and share my hurting heart with. However, when the person would walk away from me, it left me feeling abandoned, rejected, and with more fear of trusting community, because I had rooted my identity in their approval and love. The enemy used this to pull me deeper into isolation, and I began living a double life. On one hand, I was a bright and passionate leader, conveying that I was filled with joy and living in freedom and had lots of friends. On the other, I was isolated and depressed, and never shared my struggles with anyone. Especially since I was a ministry leader, I thought I could not struggle.
I thought to myself, “What will they think if I claim to be a Christian and preach freedom in Christ if I am struggling?” I never let these two worlds collide. Shame had attached itself to me.
Praise God, this is not the end of my story.
God took me on a wild and crazy journey, calling me to do a Discipleship Training School. Before I started my DTS, God spoke the word “trust” to me, a prophecy for the season I was stepping into. I assumed He meant that this would be a time where I would learn to trust Him more. Besides, what does community have to do with my relationship with God? I thought. What I found was much, much more than I had anticipated.
As soon as I arrived at YWAM Redding, I became immersed in a community of God loving people, and there was a realness and a vulnerability in the community around me that I had never seen before. The girls I lived with were genuine. They were on fire for the Lord, but not the perfect people I put pressure on myself to be.
As I stepped into this community, my ability to hide was stripped away. This was terrifying at first, but soon I realized that I was actually loved, even in my mess. I was not judged for my insecurities.
What I found was a freedom to be myself. What I found was unconditional love, no matter what I had been through or what my past looked like. I found listening ears– people who wanted to know me, my story, my best moments and my worst moments. I found that it was okay to not be okay, and I found people willing to walk with me until I received the breakthrough. I found conversation with depth and meaning as we spent hours discussing revelations and moments of freedom.
One night, I laid in my bed with a hurting and fearful heart, feeling discouraged. Only a couple of minutes went by before I was surrounded by five friends who spent the next hour pouring into me, praying with me, and loving me.
This was not an isolated event, but a normal occurrence. I became immersed in a totally different atmosphere, surrounded by prayer, worship, and encouragement. During every hard moment, there was always someone willing to come and pray for me, and in every victory, they were there to celebrate with me.
Through these people, God showed me what Godly community looks like. Through these people, He taught me how to trust again.
Coming to DTS, I expected the classes to be powerful. I expected great times of worship. I expected to be stretched in evangelism. These are the things that I focussed on. And while I gained so much from the different aspects of a DTS and loved every minute of it, nothing changed my life more than the freedom that happened in the context of the relationships.
If you are interested in learning more about our Discipleship Training Schools, and getting involved with a true community, click this link: ywamunited.org/dts