Gulping From the Cup {On God Using Community to Heal Us From Bad Community}

I sat there on the plane, next to him, not knowing who he was, my arms waving in circles, exclaiming wildly with too-hoarse voice, and this is what he heard me say, as our plane backed out of the terminal at the Omaha Airport.

Why are we so afraid to say ‘I’m a writer, to say that what I do, what I create–is good’? I just really think God has so much grace for us that we’ve yet to grasp or tap into. There is so much freedom in God. Why are we afraid to accept and own that freedom? We wear this heavy cloak of guilt and shame for who we are, and we think that’s humility. But God doesn’t want us going around to everyone apologizing, ‘I’m not good enough’. 

It’s like God’s saying dance wild in my freedom, in a field of wild flowers.

And I’m on the edge of the field, dipping my toes into soft wet clover, and timidly testing it out. I’m wild with fear, wondering what huge thing is going to come across that field at me.

We think the shame of ourselves and our fear, our timidity, makes us more holy. But Jesus said blessed are the meek, not the timid. When we are meek, it means we know our might and our power to crush, to control, to correct, but we hold it back with gentle force in respect.

The true humility God wants us to wear says ‘I’m redeemed’, I’m God’s and because of His bloody and bruised sacrifice, my heart is bowed low and because He says I’m beloved, my head is held high.

And yet, we wear that heavy cloak anyway. It’s weighing us down. It’s a cloak of shame, of fear, of unworthiness, of “I’m not good enough”, of a humility that isn’t true.

Why do we keep putting it back on?

I walk over and hang it on the coat rack, thinking I’ve really laid it down, but God wants me to get rid of the coat rack, because everytime I walk out that door, I pick it up. And I just keep wearing it, over and over. And I think it fits so pretty and so snug, but Father-God who knit my pieces together, says “No, daughter, this shame-cloak is not made for you.”

I feel Him gently pull it off, His mighty strength holding back the darkness that tears at my soul, and with the weight off of what didn’t belong to me, I feel so free.

And I’m longingly looking to Him with adoration.

I look at him, in that tight small space, and he looks at me, asks me to share. I look away, maybe for a way out, but I know, in an instant, without thinking, it’s really God asking me to share, because He’d been doing it all weekend.

I tell him, timidly, laying my life in someone else’s hands, wondering what they will do with it.

I tell of why I can’t go to church, why worship is hard for me, what being a pastor’s daughter did to me, and how people in the Body of Christ pushing me away once they encountered the real me–how that all made me jaded.

He said he admired me, people like me, he said, who have more than they deserve dumped on them and yet they keep loving anyway.

This made me balk and want to hide somewhere. I had never heard these words from other Christians in the body before, and if I had, I had brushed them off, thinking surely they weren’t real.

There were so many others, ones who looked me straight in the eye, when I said I had no idea what I was doing, and said You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re in a very good place.

Ones who looked me in the eye, said they were just an email away, told me to let them know if I needed prayer for any reason. Ones who looked me in the eye, said, I’m here for you.

There were others who looked at me, said, Yes, you do, when I said I don’t do community well, that I don’t do relationships with women well.

And the truth is, I don’t. My heart is black when it comes to community–I run from it with a fierce determination, afraid for my life, a deer being hunted, panicking, heart thumping loudly.

But that’s my truth, not God’s truth. And these women–and men? They spoke God’s truth to me. They looked at my heart, not at all the things I did or said wrong, stumbling around, but they looked at the potential, at what God has placed in me. And they saw something good there. They championed my heart and my dreams.

They said no to the lie and yes to God has made me and said it was good.

There was one who looked into my eyes as I began to tell her how much I respected her work, how she had a passion for encouraging women, and how I avoided those forums, because community is hard for me. I told her how God had begun to set that free in me this weekend, something I never thought would happen. The tears poured and the ugly-cry came in spite of me, and I apologized, said, I just wanted to snap a picture–I didn’t mean to do this!

She shook her beautiful auburn hair, No, these are the things that I want to hear from you, from women, because these are the things I work for, these are the important stories, they are the things that encourage me, to know that God heals, that God redeems.

There was the one who had me at hello, before ever meeting her in real life, and because of her daring, wonderful, crazy vision to invite some writers and bloggers to Nebraska, now I can dream too.

I can’t forget the precious woman I affectionately call “roomie”, who is in all my dreams and waking thoughts, who has my heart, and she had it before she ever stepped out of that car, sunglasses over her baby blues at the airport. She was the one who said God saved my roommate for me until I was ready.

Ready to step out on that shaky limb, ready to say yes to God, ready to have faith, to believe in my dreams.

I watched all of them, the ones I rubbed shoulders and hearts with. I marveled at them, listened to their heart, how they lean in towards people, how their gentle eyes see into souls, how they went right past small talk and asked the important questions, the ones that made me shake in my cowgirl boots, the kinds of questions that let you really know someone intimately.

There were sacred moments, uncensored, organic conversation in front of a fireplace, everyone gathered and leaning in, really seeing, really listening, and not judging.

Those moments changed me forever. As one friend put it so well, it was most probably a turning point in my story. I know it in my soul deep, even though my mind says be watchful, be careful, you can’t trust–God’s spirit was made strong in me through that moment and now the spirit knows something powerful in me–that God’s people are beautiful. And because of faith, I can trust.

What gorgeous souls they all were and still are. Meeting them in real life was beautiful and did more for me than they could ever imagine. This stone-cold, black heart, so afraid of people, of relationship, of church–it was broken right open and poured out in spite of me.

One lovely woman of God, she shepherded us, led us right up to the Shepherd’s feet. She led my weary, wary, jaded and undecided heart. She made me feel his rod and staff, and oh they are good. Knowing Him in that way had seemed out of my grasp for so long and then came the beautiful liturgical rhythm of her sermons, the worship songs, and then her prayers, an oasis in my desert.

Her radiant confidence in a wonderful Savior moved me and how can I possibly explain the sacredness of that moment when she broke the bread and held up the cup for us to come, all tearing a piece off–I had to tear it hard– Christ’s body ripping and being broken for me.

I drank from the cup, all of us drinking from the same, and I felt unworthy, unclean, and unsure all of us drawing from the same well, and in swallowing that red drink down, I willingly swallowed down community, all of us one and the same, unclean but made clean in Him, all of us pieces torn hard, made whole as a part of a Larger Whole, unworthy, but called Son and Daughter and given not a cloak of shame, but a robe of righteousness to wear, a ring, and a feast, and an inheritance of the largest kingdom this world has ever known.

We are hidden on high with Him.

Then there was one who stood before us and she worshipped. There was no song, or guitar, or piano, or dancing. She worshipped with her heart, with her words, with the call that she urged us all with. This is what she said:

“Whether you’ve been the big “somebody”, or have believed that you’re a nobody, you’ve got a role in the Christ-body, and that means everybody. 

You’ve been bullied by fear, discouragement, comparison, unbelief, and a hundred other ‘Not Enoughs’. 

We’ve had Enough of the ‘Not Enoughs’. 

Jesus is not intimidated…He might just ask you to use a rock to slay a giant. And He’s been known to roll certain stones away.”–Jennifer Lee

Tears rolled down my face, as I held the rock in my hand that bore the words fear and unbelief on them, the rock she said that her and her precious daughter would take down to the lake and throw in.

I had never forgotten the prayer she had prayed for me all that time long ago, and as she talked, I felt her worshipping, and that was the first time I worshipped that weekend, that I had let myself at all in a really long time. I let it all go, and the warm ran down cheeks onto collarbones. And it just ran, like a life-giving well, bubbling up and out, running down and out and up to God.

I watched one walk down the aisle with our Pastor, lay their stones in the basket together. Those stones that carry our “Not Enoughs”.  I saw hugs and tears and prayers, and the pain and grief and love was tangible in that place.

There was something so palpable in the room as I sat there and listened to that gorgeous courier carrying God’s message, I could almost reach out and touch it, and she was an angel, God using her to place his hand on my heart, to touch the pain searing there.

I left branded a new woman, all of these lives seared onto mine.

Yes, I have people now. After all the tearing, I’m apart of a Body now, and I’m gulping from that cup.

                                                      photo credit: used w/ permission by the lovely Laura Boggess

“The thing that wounds us is often the thing that God will walk us through again to heal us. And I’ve learned the beautiful truth and the tragic truth that God uses community to heal us from bad community.”–Mary Demuth

This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory, Shelly & Duane for Wonderstruck, Emily, & Jen & Heather for the EO

52 thoughts on “Gulping From the Cup {On God Using Community to Heal Us From Bad Community}”

  1. This is amazing! As always I can relate to so much of what you share. The difficulty doing community – especially with women.. that's me. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful experience – I can imagine how daunting it must have been to go. What you wrote here has really inspired and motivated me. Thank you

  2. Wow, this is amazingly, amazingly beautiful – so much truth here, and honesty, and grace. And SO much of God's love – in this writing and in YOU, in person, in real life. What a joy to meet you, Nacole.

  3. Oh yes Nacole. I know that cloak, have one cut and sized just for me and I've carried it for years, covering all the ugly parts, weighing me down with the heft of shame. I am walking a new path too, and I am so glad to have a sister-friend to walk with. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement to me, I don't do compliments well (another of those shame issues) but I'm learning and your words really touched me. Thank you for sharing your soul with us this past weekend. You are beautiful, girl. Just beautiful.

  4. Oh my goodness Nacole. This makes your MaMa's heart swell with happiness, overjoyment, tears, laughter and a very grateful heart to God himself. Oh I thank you so much God for giving my baby people. She has always loved you and she is a beautiful, sweet person and deserves your best. Nacole you have made my day and have also MESSED UP MY MAKEUP!!! lol LOVE YOU MUCH.


  5. I had the biggest grin on my face as I read this. I wish I could have been with you. wish my hands could have found yours and all of the others. so, so thankful that for all that darkness, you saw the stars burn in a way that, darlin? Shone so much brighter for that nightfall, for your eyes grown weary searching dark horizons. never forget their brilliance. how in a moment, those stars make you know you are not alone but apart of a heavenly choir. dancing with you, sweet one.

  6. Nacole, I can't even begin to put into words how happy this makes my heart feel. Can't. Find. Words. And I dare to call myself a writer 🙂

    Did you know that the dear sister out in Nebraska, who dreamed this all up in the first place, asked several of us to pray over roommate assignments? Do you know God's fingers were all over even that detail? Because he loves you so. Me too. xoxox

  7. “that God's people are beautiful” 🙂 i so wish i'd have come this weekend. i'm a newby to this community…afraid of it. thank you for sharing the blessing God gave you this weekend.
    so glad i visited today.


  8. Your words, they expressed perfectly what I felt at the retreat as well…safe, loved, free…this is what Christ's body should be like was what I came away with.

  9. Tears here, too, dear MIssissippi girl. So thankful that God met you so personally in so many ways over this weekend. It was such a privilege to be there!

  10. Nacole, I wasn't there this weekend… I so wish I had been… but this – because of your beautiful words poured out here – I feel like I'm drawn in to where you are, where you were, where all of you met and loved and broke bread together and shared your hearts. My heart says yes to all that you wrote here, and I'm so grateful and in awe of what God has done in you this past weekend. Thank you, so much, for sharing this. You are beautiful, sister.

  11. Oh Nacole…this was breathtakingly beautiful. I can still see you, sitting there in that circle, soaking it all in, pouring it back out, loving and learning and leaning into it all. I am so grateful to have met you in the flesh, to have embraced your frame, to have felt your tears and your fears and all that you are. You have a gorgeous gift, dear one. Rejoicing and singing glory for the ways in which God broke into your most broken places. None of us will ever be the same, of that I am convinced.
    So much love and grace to you my friend.

  12. “They spoke God's truth to me. They looked at my heart, not at all the things I did or said wrong, stumbling around, but they looked at the potential, at what God has placed in me. And they saw something good there. They championed my heart and my dreams.” <--- just totally agree with that whole statement! Same for me! So thankful for that. It was good to meet you, you take care and keep writing! 🙂 ~Frances

  13. Sweet Nacole ~ Well, you just wrote my take-away #2 blogpost…as a matter of fact, I think I will share it over at my place…okay with you? I drank in every word you poured out here…like we were dancing together under the stars, hands joined, heads back, twirling round and round as we giggle aloud. God's people are beautiful!! Yes they are!! We have nothing to fear or hide from. No shame. No shame. His love in His people was present…our present from Him!

  14. This is glorious beauty, friend. I am grateful to have shared in that experience — such beauty, such healing with you. Please keep writing, Nacole. Your words are honest and true and poetry. They gave God glory shape and form to my experience this weekend, too. Bless you, dear one.

  15. Oh Nacole! Tears are streaming down my face. Jesus made the most beautiful soul when He made you! Our car ride conversation is still one of the highlights of my weekend – you're in the “I have to remember this” part of my journal notes 🙂 Thank you for sharing your heart! Stunning.

  16. Ruth, I scarcely have words for this. That I inspired you? Just–wow. That means so much. You've been a cheerleader over here, and for that I'm deeply grateful, new friend. I knew we were kindred when I first read your blog–I read your soul. Sometimes I wonder if that's why we sit behind screens and write, because life has thrown such hard balls our way? It's all redemptive–God uses those hard balls to push us toward the calling He has for us. Love to you, dear Ruth.

  17. Jennifer, I love you too. Much more than you know–you're held so close. So much respect for you in this heart. And I've wept more this week more than I'd care to admit!

  18. Michelle, your words–balm to my unbelieving heart. *Thank you*. You are so very special and your joy spills over wherever you go. Thank you for coming here to read.

  19. Gosh, Alia, that my words touched you? I had no idea–thank you for telling me that. We never know how we can be Christ's hands and feet if only we are willing, do we? It takes a step of faith out onto that shaky limb. Thank you for letting me know it wasn't in vain. Love you.

  20. Tara, I hardly know what to say in response. Your words are so beautiful I want to read them over and over and over, write them down and tuck them in a pocket, carry them around with me. {I think I will?} You. are. beautiful, sweet, gentle (((Tara))). That you have sojourned with me, ahh, amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

  21. Nancy, you are an amazing kaleidoscope of fun, humor, and passion. I love it. And you couldn't have penned my heart better–He made me know I am beloved, in every little detail. xo.

  22. Hi, S. Rae, I understand what it's like to be afraid of it–oh, I so get that. It's all fresh and tender for me, and I know Satan would like to stamp it out. He's trying to do that right now. But he can only try. We know who wins in the end, Who has already won. I'm so grateful you came to read.

  23. Emily, you, *you*, I just want to take your face in my palms and squeeze you. You're amazing. All broken and lifted up together, all pieces of a whole, made whole in Him.

  24. Diana, I'm just so grateful you were there. It would not have been the same without *you*, unique, wonderful you. And oh, I felt the call God has surely placed on you, for such a time as this.

  25. Mary, I'm honored that you're here. I was so surprised to see your comment on fb–I left you a comment there. Your one statement that I quoted meant so much to me. I won't forget it.

  26. Holly, you pen my heart here. What can I say to this? Except, yes, friend, *yes*. Thank you for being willing to catch tears. This means more than you know. Yours always.

  27. Frances, thank you sweet girl. It was so beautiful, wasn't it? I'll be thinking about it for a very long time, trying to wrap my head around all that happened in my heart. I so enjoyed your photography on your site. Keep that up–you are amazing at it.

  28. You already know I love this but I'm just telling you again, you honor God with your words here and I'm so grateful for what He's doing in you through this amazing weekend. So glad you linked up with Duane and I so more people can find your words.

  29. you are friends with Ruth, Nacole? isn't she amazing. seriously such a breathe of fresh air. When i ended up at her blog I just kept reading, i couldn't stop…her voice just gets me in my heart and pulls me into her journey. i love it. so glad you ladies are friends.

  30. I just discovered this post via one of your comments on a recent post. I too am in a season in which God is using community to heal me and your words are real, and they spoke so powerfully to me. I love how you speak to the brave things not as one who thinks about these things, but as one who knows and feels these things.

  31. 3 weeks since #jtreat and my heart is now ready to read everyone's link ups. This is raw, real, and honoring. You get community in your words, may your heart ever learn it and keep on sharing it with us.

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