Worth The Risk
Last June, I walked into Cathy Drake’s Thornton Park home—full of strangers—for a Connect group meeting. I didn’t go because I wanted to make new friends or because I wanted to get plugged into Summit. I went because I thought I should go. I was wrestling with whether or not Jesus is who he said he is and the implications it would have for my life if I chose to believe it. And if I’m honest, I secretly hoped that if I showed up to this Connect group with my mess on display, they wouldn’t love me. I thought if they didn’t love me, I could give myself permission to stop seeking God. I thought very wrong.
They loved me so well that it turned my world rightside-up.
Exactly one year after I walked into Cathy’s house, and somehow managed to make those strangers my closest friends, they piled into my home office to reminisce about what God has done in the life of this Connect group thus far.
On a weekly basis, we see each other more often than most of us see our roommates. There are roughly 20 of us and while you’ll certainly find the core 12 meeting on Sundays after church to study the Bible, you’re bound to find the rest of us at a movie night, happy hour, or a beach weekend.
With as much time as the group spends together, it’s hard to believe it almost didn’t exist. Mark Nuzum had been wanting a 30-something, singles group for years. He works in ministry, leading small groups for a living, and the thought of adding another group to his list was not particularly appealing. But there came a point when he couldn’t wait for it anymore. He saw the need; he saw no one else was going to take the lead on it, and he saw that it wasn’t about him. So in April of 2016, God started laying the foundation for relationships that are now much deeper than we ever could have planned.
When asked what life was like before this group, a hush comes over the otherwise wildly chatty bunch. It’s hard to remember life before we came together. While being a part of this group certainly hasn’t eliminated our struggles, it has made it so we don’t have to bear our burdens alone. These burdens range from the struggle of living a Christian life among non-Christian friends to the burden of clinical depression. And let’s not forget single people problems, including, but not limited to, occasional loneliness, the stomach flu, and thwarting questions from nosy family members about your love life, or lack thereof.
With as beautiful as our togetherness is, it wasn’t instantly easy. Cathy remembers the first meeting was awkward. No one said much and, as the hostess, she was worried that maybe they weren’t going to click. Babita Hinduja, who joined the group in the summer of 2016, recounts she was nervous to open up because it was such an emotional time in her life, “But when you take the risk—because it is a risk— and you’re met over and over again with love and acceptance, your wall breaks down and you’re able to be more vulnerable,” she says.
There is something supernatural about the connection this group has—how free and vulnerable we are with each other. While the connection wasn’t instant, it’s been fun to watch it evolve. When I asked about favorite memories, I was met with stories of weekends at the beach, Valentine’s Day surprises, and a certain jumbo-sized-float that never did make it to calm waters. The consensus is that these fun experiences were unifying, which ultimately led to more vulnerable relationships.
It’s this vulnerability that created a safe space where no one is afraid to open up about their needs and their struggles. Earlier this year Kelly Wallace, one of the founding members of the group, was rehabbing an investment home. Each new step of the project brought a new set of problems. She was already exhausted, desperate, and depleted when she realized she had several weeks of lawn work to do before the house could be listed—or so she thought. Within days of that news, eight group members came together to do 64 hours of work in a single day.
Together we’ve experienced the losses and births of loved ones, the beginnings and ends of relationships, career crises and career milestones. Whatever the occasion calls for—mourning or merriment—we are in it together.
The spirit of service is contagious. Even if we are not feeling like putting in the effort at first, when you know your friends are going to serve—or sponsor a child in Ethiopia, or shop for the Backpack Drive—you realize it’s not about you. It’s about reflecting God and his glory to each other and to the rest of the world.
In talking about what reflecting God’s glory to each other looks like, the excitement in Lisa Puckey’s voice has the entire group hooked on every word she says. “Together we more fully display the character of who God is—all of the beautiful things about him.” Lisa lavishes each member of the group with compliments from gentle and kind to handy and vivacious. She pauses for a moment and exclaims, “wow, God is amazing.”
Seeing God reflected in each other puts this group in a state of worship. “Not the stand-in-church-and-raise-your-hands-kind of worship,” Lisa explains, “but rather, being in awe of him by seeing his glory on display.” We often find ourselves in worship in the most unconventional of ways. When talking about the ways we worship together, Babita can’t help but giggle as she says, “This isn’t the holiest-stand-up-straight kind of worship, but just feeling so free to dance around the living room on a Friday night, you see our freedom in Christ.”
It’s that freedom that makes this group’s connection so unique. We are free to struggle without condemnation. We are free to express our needs without fear of judgement. We are free to use our resources and talents without jealousy. It’s encouraging to see how we come together as different parts of the body of Christ to do kingdom work for his people and his glory.
In sitting and (mostly) listening, through joyful tears, I saw the beauty of our need for each other and how it reflects our need for God.
I'm not wrestling with who Jesus is anymore. I've seen his unconditional love lived out through this group. And when I made my public declaration of faith with the step of baptism last October, nearly every member of this Connect group was there cheering—front and center.
C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Four Loves, “We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”
While I’m wholly unqualified to be adding to the words of Mr. Lewis, I’d venture to say, we need others if we are to know God and his glory.
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Laura Diaz has been attending Summit for a couple years now and is the CEO and Senior Strategist at Kiss Me Creative. She serves as a writer on our Media Team and volunteers in Student Ministries, leading a Connect group of 9th grade girls. She enjoys long sips of coffee and short lines at Starbucks.