When Andrew and I were in college, we had an amazing group of Christian friends. I've tried many times to put those relationships into words, but it's never been easy. All I know is that I laughed harder, cried harder, dreamed bigger and talked more honestly with those people during those sweet four years. They were authentic and good-hearted and flawed - all of the things that makes that kind of community so good because it's so raw.
When we graduated and got married, Andrew and I tried to find that community elsewhere. We looked to church after church, but never felt that authenticity. We started to feel burned out by the predictability of it all. We knew the services and the music and the perma-smiles like the back of our hand and all we wanted, all we wanted, was to sit cross-legged in the middle of someone's living room and talk about Jesus. That didn't seem like too much to ask.
Eventually, we got complacent. Jaded, I think. And we just let it stay that way.
When we moved to Charleston, we needed that community again. The Navy was rocking our world and our marriage and what we needed was a group of people to build us up and pray for us and look after us. And we needed to do the same for them, because there is healing in that as well.
The day we walked into Grace Christian Fellowship, we'd only lived in that precious town for five days. We were tired from moving and unpacking and anticipating what was ahead and what we found there was invigorating. I felt like I'd taken a deep breath for the first time in months. Years, maybe. I can honestly say that it was the most genuine community that I'd ever witnessed. They were so real.
We spent a year and a half with that small group of family. We shared meals and prayed prayers and sat cross-legged in many floors together. We worked through scary things and rejoiced over happy things. They were the first to know about about a lot - I was just three weeks pregnant when I sat on someone's couch and told them all how scared I was. And when our boy came nine months later, they poured love and grace on us. For weeks.
We grew so much with them. We got our hearts all messed up, in the best way, and I am certain that the time we shared with them was intentional. We were being fixed up and prepared. We were being made better.
So in early December, when we stood in a living room while our closest friends circled around us to pray, it hit me what we were leaving behind. And a week later, during Jack's dedication service, those sweet souls laid their hands on us in prayer. I felt someone's hand on my shoulder and my heart broke. I didn't know whose hand it was, but I know it was Him. Weaving together a group of people so tightly that it gives amazing strength, but hurts so much when pulled apart.
I remember reading in Acts 20, about Paul leaving Ephesus, and it talks about how sad they were. And "what grieved them most" was that they wouldn't see him again. I've prayed so hard for relationships like that. But looking back on what we found at Grace, I see it there.
And though heartbroken as we are, we are so much better for it.