I’ve had the privilege of belonging to the same church family for nearly twenty years. We are a tight-knit group. Our church culture encourages its members to celebrate one another, show honor when it’s due and many other ideals that make for a strong community.
When I self-published my first book. My church family bought the first 100+ copies. When my husband and I had our babies, our small group brought meals, flowers and gifts. My closest relationships have originated from my church home, including a handful of very close friends that God has since moved on to plant in other churches. Despite this tight circle (or maybe because of it), I’ve felt a little restless over the last few years, sensing it was time for me to be more intentional about widening my circle of relationships.
So last year I prayed a simple prayer: “Lord, widen my circle.”
Not long after I prayed this prayer, I reconnected with a woman I’ve known for years who hosts a close group of business-savvy women. While I’m typically surrounded by friends who share my Christian worldview, this networking group is not faith-based. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy it. Attending this group has given me an opportunity to step outside of my comfortable community.Know before you ask: the risks & rewards of praying for God to widen your circle @KendraTillman… Click To Tweet
The Open Door Sisterhood became another answer to that simple prayer. In this case, I do share a Christian worldview with the women of the Sisterhood. Here, however, I felt it was God’s invitation for me to learn from and grow with others who share my faith, but whose faith community looks different than my own.
I would never have guessed how much God would uncover about me through connecting with this Sisterhood. One of my major insights is a little embarrassing to admit. As God has widened my circle this last year, it’s become clear that the years spent within my own community “bubble” have resulted in me being judgmental of others, including my sisters in Christ. I’ve also discovered that getting free from insecurity can be a lot like peeling an onion. Even when you think you’re done, there are more layers underneath.
Am I the only one? Perhaps you too can recall a time when God brought you into a new environment, but because of preconceived thoughts, you left without really embracing the people in that environment. In hindsight, you wished you’d behaved differently.
I’m learning if I want to win at unity in my new relationships — if I want God to keep widening my circle — I have to keep allowing the Holy Spirit to examine my heart and motives. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV) holds an important reminder for those times when I’m tempted to be judgmental.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Here on earth none of us has the full picture of truth. We all know “in part.” I don’t have the whole picture. You don’t have the whole picture.
The fact that we’re all stumbling through and living out our faith imperfectly should bond us, not divide us.
About the author: Kendra Tillman, the chief community builder at StrongerThanYouThink.co, is an author and event host who coaches ambitious women on finding purpose in their womanhood, their work and their worship. She is a mother of 3 and a wife of nearly 20 years.