General wisdom would tell you that it isn’t a good idea to get into a car with women you met online. There is, of course, the matter of safety. After all, you might end up dead on the side of the road. But, aside from that, there is the near guarantee of sheer awkwardness.
Hours in the car with women you know from the internet? Sharing a small house, that has one bathroom, with 9 other women? And a party with 200 plus whom you have only interacted with on Facebook? It just sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Last weekend, I went on an adventure. I took a road trip with my internet community. 5 of us caravanned to Austin and we were later joined by 5 others in our tiny house. Together, the ten of us went to a backyard party with 200 other women. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Community has been difficult for me the past two years. I don’t share that so you will throw me a pity party. (I’ve thrown enough of my own over it and they aren’t the best sort of parties.) It has caused me to review my years on this planet and examine the communities of which I have had the joy of being a part. There are many flashes of healthy friendships, strong community, but that’s the thing. Those moments feel like flashes in the pan. Just little sparks of hope in the midst of something that seems more often than not to be difficult and painful.
It isn’t anyone’s fault. It is everyone’s fault. Mine too. It’s our brokenness. It’s our looking to others to make us feel whole. And it’s no one’s fault. We live in a transient culture. People don’t stay put. Interests change, seasons change, locations change. This has always been one of the most difficult realities for me to grasp. It began in college. I had friends one semester who I never saw the next. I hated it. I thought it would end after graduation. I was wrong. Now, seasons seem to change a bit slower, no longer semester by semester. However, it also takes longer to bond with adult peers than it did with college peers. Everyone has routines, responsibilities, and reputations to uphold. We don’t let people in very quickly.
So I have been in a season of isolation, and it has been wrecking me. But then I joined this launch team. Large groups of women generally make me want to run and hide. So much estrogen. Lord bless us. And internet community? …well that isn’t a real thing, right? I figured I would read a book, get a glimpse into the mind of an author I highly respect, and that would be it. A great experience, but contained within my own walls, within a few months.
Instead, I have found this community. Women who have loved me in the biggest ways. Women who have lived the gospel. Sacrifice for the others, crying tears over someone else’s pain, and then throwing the best girls’ weekend of all time.
On Friday morning, the first crew of 5 went to South Congress after a fantastic lunch at The Salt Lick. We knew some other of the launch team ladies would be there but how to find them…we had no idea. We parked and headed to the crosswalk, and just across the street, we saw them…another crew. Y’all, you would have thought we were childhood friends reuniting. We were screaming and hugging. Oh yeah, and introducing ourselves. When does that happen? When was the last time you saw someone you didn’t really know and had a little street corner party?
And these women! That day, the clerks at the TOMS store were invited to North Dakota, to game night, to church. A group of women exiting a store found themselves in the middle of a launch team street corner party and asked if they could hang out with us because we were so fun. And they did! It was Annie’s birthday so we celebrated with her! And there were other stories too. I had feared it would crumble when we moved beyond the screen into real life. Instead, I watched this weird grace spill out into the streets of Austin. And it was beautiful.
Then there was a real party. We gathered in the yard of the woman who had given us this gift. She introduced us to her family, she hugged our necks, she spoke to each of us as though she knew exactly who we were. And this generous, kind person asked us to be her friends not fans. She was precious. And while I am certain we would be magnificent friends, I am also certain that she and I will never be the dubsmashing*, text for no reason, sit on the porch and spill your guts and laugh till you cry, kind of friends. Even still, it was the words God gave her, the dream that began in her heart, that gave me those kinds of friends.
Why has it been so different? Why is it that as women (and men?), we can walk into a small group at a church with every intention of building deep friendships and end up feeling more lonely and more disconnected than ever? Why is it that that we can extend ourselves to the outer edges of our souls in the name of connecting as we know we were created to and yet, feel as though we have been speaking into a void? But then, this. No hope for relationship, no plans to connect with anything more than written words and BAM! community.
I think perhaps it is about expectation. Most of us tend to go to small groups expecting to find friends. We expect to find The Church as it should be. But she isn’t. We aren’t as we should be. We are all grasping for worth from our community. And it never works. Maybe, just maybe, this launch team led to community because none of us expected it. We just came in, ready to have a little personal adventure and it became more. It surprised us. In the very best way.
We have already begun planning our next trip. Perhaps we will visit our friend in North Dakota.
Wondering what dubsmash is? Well, here you go: