When we walked away from the only community we’d ever known for 22 years, we were reeling. It took a few months for us to pick ourselves back up and seek where God would want us to connect in next. It was hard and painful. For over a year, we tried different places with all of the different components that we bring–location of where we live, a large family, kids old enough to notice the changes, a few of those children with special needs, mom and dad’s spiritual needs, etc. As we finally settled on a new place, we struggled to rebuild what had taken so many years to build elsewhere. We learned a lot (and are still learning) why people float from church to church or simply walk away from the church all together.
As we tried to figure out where we fit in this new environment where everything was unfamiliar, we made different attempts that never quite panned out. It was tempting to give up and just float out there on our own. Yet, as we processed through this it occurred to us, “Why exactly do we think it’s the responsibility of our church to connect us with others and build our community for us? Why don’t we build it on our own?” So that’s what we did.
Over time, God began to show us that He was way ahead of us and had already begun building the community in which he wanted us to thrive. We just had to take a leap of faith and trust where he was leading us. It started with a simple yearning for connecting with people who felt safe and accepted the broken us. It built over swimming pools, collaboratively shared meals, doggie knowledge, common schools, coffee cups, lengthy text messages and late-night escapes for movies and Bible study.
And then there was the day I read this random article on FB that talked about a family who opened up their home every week for an open-invite dinner. The idea intrigued me, but I didn’t know if my introverted-self was brave enough to do such a thing. I mean really, who the heck opens up their door wide to anyone who wants to come for dinner—every.single.week? That’s scary stuff right there.
As all of this rolled around in my brain, I watched one of my soul friends bury her healthy, young, athletic husband. I quietly journeyed alongside her, as so many others did, because she and her husband had built a crazy-amazing community through authenticity and simply doing life together. Through that community, God provided for their every need (and He still does today). They invested in lives because they believed in community. They pressed in to the hard, embraced the joy and got comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Everything collided. It was time for me to get uncomfortable and see what happened.
I’ll never forget the text messages my superMAN and I exchanged as I threw out this idea to him. What if we opened our doors for open-invite dinner every single Friday night? He thought I had lost my mind. He reminded me that I was an introvert and that I readily admitted to not having the gift of hospitality. And then he voiced, “What if nobody comes?”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…if only he knew then what we experience every Friday night now. Our house is far from empty. Our home is possibly overly full, brimming with people that are hungry for community just like we were. WERE.
We figured out the logistics, took the scary steps to throw out the invitation for dinner every single week and waited to see what would happen. Of course we had fears like, what if no one comes, what if someone we don’t know shows up, what if we run out of food or it’s just too expensive? What if we don’t like some of the people who show up, the people don’t get along or the same menu every week gets boring? What if people stay later than our usual bed time? What if it’s chaotic or we get tired from hosting every week? What if our house gets dirty, they discover we’re not perfect or something gets broken? What if, what if, what if, what if?
If we risk nothing, we gain nothing.
Dinner is served up every single Friday for anyone who wants to show up and some of those things do happen. We get tired, our house gets messy, we eat crunchy beans, things get broken and it can be chaotic, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything because it’s a beautiful, messy, chaos full of broken people that we are doing life with in community.
You see, the thing is that we started off by simply offering dinner every Friday night*, but what we got in return was an overflow of community into the other days of our week. Kids are having sleepovers, text messages of prayer are circulating, recipes are exchanged, children transported, babysitting happens, parenting advice and stories are swapped, women gather over a simple word to focus on for the year, they craft together and attend conferences together, movies are watched in company by the men, churches explored and lunch breaks are spent with friends.
People ask us curious questions about our Friday nights all the time. It’s really not a hard concept. We pray every week that God will send who He wants to be here. We serve up dinner and welcome anyone and everyone to join us at our table. And we love…simply love…every single person every single Friday. It’s not a copyrighted, complex idea.
All it took was being willing. God led and we followed in to the crazy, messy beautiful called community.