Brennan Manning says this:
“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
In other words – in community, hiding out is not an option. Real community is not a place where we conceal who we are and who we have been. Real community offers no invitation to be perfect or burden free. Real community is a place where we get down to the nitty-gritty. This is where we sink into each others lives; where we hear each others stories without rising up in judgement. Community is a culture built on compassion.
The thing about compassion is that you will never really understand it until you are known and you know. Until you let other people into your darkest corners, your rocky past and your right-now battles, no one can have compassion for you. Until you enter in to someone else’s grief, trauma and fear, you can’t have compassion. Compassion comes from a deep place of intimacy. Compassion is drawn, etched and fleshed out in the shared lives of transparent people.
Here’s one thing compassion is NOT: compassion is not co-dependency. I know this because I’ve lived in the throes of both. Co-dependency looks like an invitation to sit weak and broken in a dark, isolated pit forever. Co-dependency enters in, sets up camp, and laments in unison with broken people. No one ever tastes light again.
Compassion looks like an open door. Compassion is an entering in through the door, holding the weak, dirty hand of a captive beloved and helping them crawl to freedom. Compassion is the crack in the wall that lets in enough light to inspire a life altering choice. Compassion leads to freedom.
If we want to experience compassion we’re going to have to first experience community. We’re going to have to get vulnerable with safe people and let our hearts be stirred. We’re going to have to experience conflict and misunderstandings. We’re going to have to learn to rejoice with each other when mountains are crossed and when small steps bring us great distances. We’re also going to have to learn how to use boundaries. We’re going to have to build sturdy fences with well oiled gates. We’re going to have to know where certain people fit in our hearts. We’re going to have to exercise strength as we love unlovable people from this side of our own healing. We’re going to have to be wise, and meek, and humble, and soft, and strong, and authentic, and human. We’re just going to have to live our lives in the presence of other people walking the same road we are.
This is the kind of authenticity that will illuminate the darkness. This is the kind of love that will spark the quiet. This is the kind of radical, gentle beauty that spilled out of every single one of Jesus of Nazareth’s pores. This is the kind of family he came to create. This is for you, friends. This kind of community is a calling.
I know you might be dusty from sitting too long in the dirt. I know you’ve been rejected, betrayed, abused, neglected or wounded at some point in your life. I get it. But know this – isolation will never allow you to experience compassion. Co-dependency will never allow you to be known, or even to know. Freedom is written on the walls of your heart. Light is spilling through the cracks under the door and through the breaks in the walls.
Brennan Manning is right. Letting people in on our darkness, lets them in on our healing. This is how we illuminate the darkness.
*Stephanie is a contributing writer and primarily writes at The Little Way