I appreciate this perspective from Leanne Penny, as she and I are both non-native Okies. I wonder when we learn to stop trying to fit in? Say hi to Leanne and let her know your answers to her question in the comments. If you have a story to tell about community, view my Guest policies above.
I live in a relatively small town in South Eastern Oklahoma, but I was born and raised in West Michigan. When I first moved to town I only knew stereotypical things about what it meant to be an Okie and I was convinced I’d never fit in. I had no interested in frying things or falling in love with Dr Pepper; I thought I was doomed to be a reject.
Thankfully, I soon found myself woven into a community of friends who began to feel like family and better yet, they liked me for me. They encourage my writing, love my homemade scones and are a constant source of encouragement. As it turns out, community isn’t about everyone being the same, but about everyone falling in love with each other’s uniqueness.
My finding a home here in Central Oklahoma had nothing to do with becoming an Okie and everything to do with being brave enough to be authentic, very Michigan self. Although I have started making beans and corn bread and my friends now appreciate the beauty of homemade apple crisp.
I was back in West Michigan last week and while there I made a point to pick some fresh blueberries, my favorite summer flavor. I picked berries while my children ate them and tumbled around in the dirt and brush, all of us sweaty and content.
As I filled the bucket tied around my waist I thought about the vastness of gifts and passions God pours into his kids. When we join together it’s essential that we find the bravery to open up and share who he made us to be. This is deeply needed not for our own pride but because God needs all of us to add our unique color and flavor to the world to bring his fullness.
Community shouldn’t be about a group of people trying to blend in and be the same. Rather it’s about a collection of individuals who show God to the world more completely together than apart.
I’ve noticed something lately that breaks my heart a little. When I see people, myself included, witness each other’s beautiful gifts we respond not with appreciation but with self-degradation.
We don’t appreciate what we see as gifts from God, instead we see a reason to put ourselves down.
For example, when someone brings us a lovely pie, instead of appreciating a fantastic dessert, we reflect on what crappy cooks we are. When someone brings us fresh produce we don’t praise their green thumb, we talk about our own failed gardening attempts.
Instead of see God in each other’s gifts, too often we wonder why he short-changed us. This attitude is robbing all of us from experiencing the fullness of God.
We aren’t called to be each other; we aren’t all going to be master gardeners or pastry chefs. But it’s essential that we commit to being brave enough to bring what and who we truly are to the table.
If we can do that we will find ourselves in sweet and true communities that realize how vastly we rely on each other’s differences. We’ll be able to surrender ourselves to serving the whole by doing just exactly what we were created to do.
Okay, so there aren’t many of us who were created to clean toilets or fold socks but even in God’s community I’m pretty sure that there’s such as thing as “taking one for the team.”
May we all fall in love with who he created us to be and return the favor by recognizing the treasure inside each other, then, may we change the world together.
P.S. My unique flavor is probably a blend of blueberries and almond extract, yours?
Leanne Penny spends her days drinking coffee and chasing her two kids with her college-pastor husband in Ada, OK. When the kids are sleeping or decide to play with their toys she ignores the dishes and writes about her journey of hurting, healing, and choosing joy at www.leannepenny.com Twitter @leannepenny Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeanneRPenny