If, at the end of my life, I can point to a single common thread that God has woven throughout my life, I’d be willing to bet it is community. I’ve only lived 25 years of life so far, but that thread has been present in God’s story in my life consistently up to this point.
When I was growing up, I placed my identity in my friend groups and sought affirmation and fulfillment in them. I loved going to church to socialize and I took pride in my reputation as a “good kid” among friends and family. I thought those things made me a Christian and earned God’s love. What I didn’t know was that God is holy and infinite. My sins against Him made me guilty, and I deserved eternal punishment. No amount of good works could earn my innocence or cleanse my heart.
When I got older, my family joined another church, and I lost all my closest friends. It was a shock to me, and I became bitter toward God for taking away something so important to me. I responded by turning away from church and, instead, invested in my friendships at school. Soon enough, each of those relationships would follow a common pattern: I’d look for fulfillment in my friend groups, they’d let me down in some way or another, so I’d turn to another friend group and restart the cycle.
Then, we graduated high school and began college. Because my friends had all moved away for college, I found myself again without a community when I moved onto UAB’s campus my freshman year.
This was the second time I’d lost my closest friendships, but this time I had nothing else to run to. I was lonely and spent many nights over my open Bible praying for God to help me love Him and asking for healthy friendships. It seemed that despite my best efforts I couldn’t do either.
My sophomore year of college was when I got plugged into a Brook Hills college small group and began to see what it looks like to follow Christ. I became fast friends with my small group leader, Joyce, and we would meet weekly as she shared the gospel with me and showed me what it looked like to obey God’s Word.
One day, we were studying the Bible together, and I asked her how I could be a Christian but my life not look like what the Bible says it should. We flipped to Matthew 7:17-18, and I read it.
“...every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.”
That was when I realized that good deeds and friendships could not cleanse my heart. It was only faith in Christ’s death and resurrection that saved me. At that moment, I turned from my sins and chose to follow Christ.
Now, as a believer, my identity is solely in Christ, and I am able to love others through showing them Christ-centered community. I’ve been welcomed into homes and served hot meals, and I have welcomed others into my home and served them. Friends have rejoiced and wept with me, and I have rejoiced and wept with others. I have found such joy in singleness by serving some of my closest friends and their families.
While I was still an enemy of God, I prayed for community, and He has answered those prayers abundantly in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I encourage you to be faithful and hospitable, because you never know how the Lord is pursuing someone’s heart through you.
Courtney Talley first came to Brook Hills in 2013 and became a member in August of this year. She currently leads a Singles 20s/30s small group at Brook Hills.