When I was about twenty four I hit an extremely low point in my life. A few years prior I had walked away from my spiritual path because I had a lot anger and frustration toward God. In my mind, I thought I knew what my life should look like and felt like I was working so hard to create that but nothing ever seemed to work out in my favor. Eventually, I came to believe that God just wasn’t doing His job or doing it good enough. So finally, in my early twenties I hit a breaking point and told God, “I’m going to try this without you for a little while,” because I thought I could do it better.
Long story short, I did not do better, I actually did exceptionally worse and my life had become unbearably painful. Not only was I suffering personally, emotionally, and spiritually, I was doing so completely alone. I lived in Los Angeles, I didn’t have any family there, and I didn’t have a group of friends who were spiritual. I didn’t have anyone around me who supported me in having a healthy lifestyle or my personal growth. It was a heartbreaking time in my life. I felt desperate, ashamed and painfully alone.
One day, after a few years of this, I was directed to return to my spiritual path. It was a really profound moment and I knew that my life would never be the same. I found my local church in Los Angeles and I went that Sunday morning. It was a small church and I positioned myself to sit alone and away from everyone. The way you kind of do when you haven’t been in church for a while. I sat there silently praying that the message would be something incredible, I was praying that this would be something that would shake me from the misery I had put myself in and that I would finally see some light in all the darkness.
The guest speaker that day was an elderly African American man who grew up in the south who spoke about how when he was a little boy he would sit out of the “Whites Only” churches and listen to them sing songs about God. He talked about how much it hurt him to not get to celebrate God in the way he wanted because of the color of his skin. He said all his life he wanted to sing God’s praises in a community like the one he stood outside of, and that there was one song in particular he would hear from the church and sing outside alone in the street. He said that he prayed that someday he could sing that song with everyone else and celebrate God in a community that would love accept him. And on that day, that’s what he did. After a whole lifetime, this man stood on that stage and sang the song that he used to hear people sing in church while he stood outside. While he sang this song, you could feel the justice, vindication, and glory that he waited for his whole life. And as he sang, tears streamed down his face.
Everything about his story, his energy, and his moment of victory, was overwhelmingly emotional, and the song he sang also had a profound effect on me. The song he sang, the song he listened to outside of church while he was a little boy, that he promised himself he would one day sing in a community, was Just A Closer Walk with Thee.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the song, some of the lyrics are:
I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee
Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be
After having felt so distant from God and feeling alone for so long, hearing those words and hearing this man sing them, I broke down. I just couldn’t help but cry. It was such a raw moment where I felt like I was giving God all of my baggage and saying. “I need to walk with you God. Please take all of this so I can walk with you.”
While this was happening, while I was crying and silently asking God to be there with me, a woman behind me, a complete stranger, who said nothing, gently put her hand on my shoulder and kept it there the entire time.
So many times when we pray God delivers a non-physical message or confirmation but here was a physical answer to my prayers. I asked God to be there with me and walk with me and God came through as this woman putting her hand on my shoulder in love and support.
That day in church was a pivotal point of my life and spiritual growth. That was such a profound day for me and was the beginning of letting God back into my life. I committed at that time to always walk with God, no matter how difficult, scary, or sometimes even painful. It also changed my views about church and what a spiritual community can be. A spiritual community is sacred. It’s such a holy contribution to our spirituality because of what it provides us and because of the roles we play for each other.
The Roles We Play
We all play one of three roles in our spiritual communities. And those roles change depending on where we are in our lives. Sometimes we may even be playing multiple roles at the same time.
The first role we play in a spiritual community is The Disciple
The Disciple is the person looking for answers, growth, or something more. We all go periods of The Disciple. Maybe we are going through the death of a loved one, some health challenges arise, or maybe we just experience a shift in our paradigm. Whatever it is, we all go through these times where we are looking for expansion, growth, or a better understanding of our divine being. On that particular day, I was The Disciple, looking for something more, wanting answers, needing hope. The people that day supported me by playing the other roles.
The Second role is The Master
The Master is a person who has done the work of mastering something and is an example of how we can be. It’s the person who has healed addiction and acts as a master of recovery to the ones fresh in their recovery. It’s the person who have transitioned through grieving and acts as a master of peace or life after loss. Or it’s the man who faced adversity through his life, promising himself that someday he would sing the song he heard outside the church, and despite everything stacked up against him, was finally able to sing his song. He acted as a master of mindset, perseverance, and personal mastery, as to what we can overcome and what we can do when we dedicate our minds and hearts to walking with God.
The third role people play in Spiritual Community is The Truth Holder
The Truth Holder
The woman who put her hand on my shoulder played the role of The Truth Holder. Instead of getting caught up in my struggle or feeling pity for me, she firmly and lovingly held the truth of God for me when I couldn’t. The most spiritual thing we can do for each other is to see the truth of God for one another despite all seeming appearances. Sometimes that feels impossible and even scary, but to hold that truth is what Jesus did for us and acts as a catalyst for change. It gives us permission to grow into that truth and manifest it into our lives.
In a spiritual community we are holders of truth for each other. Being a part of a a spiritual community is a silent commitment to be the hand on someone’s shoulder when they need it and to let others be a hand on your shoulder when you need it.
Being a part of a spiritual community is incredibly valuable for our friends and spiritual family, but it’s also invaluable for us.
Church is so much more than what we have been led to believe. And I feel that’s a big reason why many people stop going. Once we realize God loves us indefinitely, some people may think, “Well, then why do I even have to go to church?” But there are so many profound blessings and lessons that come from being in a church setting and being in a community of like minded spiritual people.
Being in a spiritual community is also a way that God communicates with us. Have you ever prayed for an answer and received it through someone else? A minister, pastor, priest, or spiritual leader offers insights that they have been given through prayer and mediation. Maybe you are too close to the situation to see the answer and someone else is hearing it objectivity. God never changes, it’s only a matter of how the information comes through that may sound different. So God will put you where you need to be, to hear the answer to your prayer, from a person who is open to hearing it in a way that will facilitate the most healing and growth for you.
Spiritual community acts as a mouthpiece. Each and every person in a spiritual community is a mirror and reflection to each other and gives us opportunities to heal and grow. We are each other’s saints. We have the opportunity to love each other and reflect God back to one another to create holy relationships. Being a part of a sacred community is one of the holiest relationships we can have. Being in a sacred community is a commitment to see the Christ in one another so that we can pull back the layers of ego until we see it ourselves. Sometimes that feels like a lot to ask of one another or even of ourselves, but that’s actually what we are supposed to do as spiritual beings. Being in a spiritual community is a vow to walk with each other while we walk with God.
Spiritual Community is a celebration of God
For a lot of my life I believed a spiritual community was something I only needed when I was going through a difficult time. That’s the way a lot of us think about it. However, it’s actually equally important to go when we are happy and everything is going well.
What if the woman who put her hand on my shoulder during that service woke up that morning and said to herself, “You know what? I’m way too happy and fulfilled to go to church today. I’m just going to stay home!”
She wouldn’t have been there for me when I needed her.
We aren’t supposed to go to seek spiritual community just because life is bad. We can be a part of it to celebrate that God is alive and well now! Spirital community is a celebration of God, the God within ourselves and in each other. When we celebrate people in our lives we don’t celebrate them when we are unhappy. Wouldn’t it be strange to only call our friends when we are in a bad mood but not celebrate the friendship when we are happy?
Our relationship with God is literally the most valuable relationship we have and that is a relationship we can always celebrate. Spiritual community is a way of celebrating God, the Christ in ourselves, and the Christ in each other and then leaning on each other when we need it.
Spiritual community is also preventive maintenance for our spiritual well being. With our vehicles we have to do preventive maintenance with things like oil changes, tire rotations, or alignments. If we wait to do those things they can cause serious harm and it ends up costing us far more. This is how spiritual community works. It gives us the preventive maintenance we need so that when something happens in our lives, we are already maintenced and ready for the road. Vehicles go to a mechanic for alignments, we have spiritual community. If we have a solid and healthy spiritual community when we have a breakdown, literally or metaphorically, we aren’t going to be driving smoothly in lives which can lead to other mechanical issues.
Being a part of a spiritual community also builds our faith. Part of being in spiritual community is witnessing the miracles in each other’s lives and testifying the glory of God. Faith takes practice, and when we see faith in action, and the manifestation of that faith, it builds our own faith, thus creating more miracles in our own lives. Matthew 18:20 states, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
God is everywhere, including within us. If God is within us and we celebrate that when we gather, we amplify that presence of God. So what if we all commit to playing these roles for one another, to holding each other in the highest regard, to honoring the light in one another in ways we never have before. How would that manifest? What kind of healing and community would be created from that?