I don’t remember a lot about that first night they all poured into our third floor walkup other than the fact I was scared. New city. New church. New group of strangers coming to my house. We gathered in my house, but I didn’t lead; I was allowed just to learn. Learn and cook.
What started as me making a little extra dinner for a friend turned into a full blown meal for over a dozen people and their children. There was pasta and meatballs and salad and tacos and brownies and hummus and soup and so much bread. I’d start in the morning and go all day; soup in the crockpot and bread rising on the counter. Brownies—both regular and gluten free and always a fresh pot of coffee.
They were my people. We laughed together, ate together, learned together, and prayed together. We had five out of the seven continents covered and I can’t even remember how many languages were spoken. There is nothing more soul satisfying than a home full of people who love you and love your children, especially when they tell them and you aren’t able to translate. It was beautiful. It was messy. It was one of the best examples of community I have ever been part of. It wasn’t perfect. It ended. But it transformed me in ways I could never imagine. It anchored me.
Marriage. Divorce. Birth. Death. Moving. The usual. The stories aren’t all mine to tell but if you want to know about how my life changed because of these people, I’d be happy to let you know over a cup of coffee. I’d love to tell you about how they challenged me and encouraged me and allowed me to become so much of who I am today. I’ve been part of many other small groups, and I have loved each one, but the first here in Chicago was different, but the good ones always are, aren’t they?
Fast forward over four years; that’s one house and one child later. A message received on a Monday. “Surprise! We are coming into town and will be there Friday!” We walk into church and a part of me that was a little empty feels a bit fuller.
Then we bump into another friend, one we haven’t seen in a year. And another. And another. We stand together laughing and crying and hugging. I want to have these people with me always and it’s now that I start thinking how porous I have become, that their leaving took pieces of my heart with them that were never replaced.
But here’s the thing I didn’t realize until that moment, standing there watching these people—I was made to be porous. I’m my truest self when there is room in my heart for love to flow in and out; it is what allows me to breathe. It is a lesson I learn over and over; the beauty lies in the broken bits.
In four weeks we are opening our home to another small group and always, we begin again.