One of the first things that struck me when I began getting to know my friends at Sanctuary London was their courage to risk being honest about what they were going through. Whether it was a job they lost, housing that didn’t work out, a fight that broke up a friendship, spiritual doubt, anxiety, fears, debt, or addictions, they often found some way to share. This willingness to be open and vulnerable was a surprise to me, and something I deeply respected and appreciated, because I didn’t know how to do this well myself.
And the more they shared, the more I realized that no one was judging; instead, it was simply accepted that it was normal to have struggles, and it seemed to be this common ground of shared brokenness that brought them closer. I was struck by the rare gift of a community where everyone is loved just as they are. I could see that Sanctuary London was a place where it was safe for them to be real with one another and share their stories, and I knew that I was going to learn a lot from this community.
I have longed to experience this kind of connectedness, but have always found it hard to admit my struggles. When I first started to attend the Sanctuary drop-in meals, and my friends would ask me how I was doing, my usual response would be, “I’m fine,” even when things in my life felt messy or difficult or sad. As I learn to admit my needs, this has helped me to understand that we’re all the same in this community, and we all equally need God and each other.
A few months ago, one of my friends declared to me, “you’re always happy, so I know that you’ve never had any pain in your life.” Another friend asked me if nothing ever bothered me. These were difficult words to hear, because they were a reminder that I was hiding the real me. Slowly, my friends were teaching me about true relationships, and they were teaching me about God. I realized that the more honest they were about their struggles, the more I saw how much God was loving them, and the more I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could trust him to also want me and love me, just as I am.
When my friend Carla shares with me that she’s so broke she has to pawn her guitar that she loves, or when my friend Scott shares that he’s depressed, or Darren tells me he can’t stand the loneliness of his apartment, or Lisa tells me she doesn’t fit in anywhere, or Sandra asks me why friendship is so very hard, I feel a little less embarrassed about my own insecurities and problems, because I know I’m not alone.
Lately, I’ve been contemplating how hiding our brokenness from our friends and from God prevents us from fully receiving God’s love and healing. If I hide who I really am because I’m afraid to risk being honest, will I miss out on God’s beautiful invitation for his healing and light in my places of pain and darkness? And if, as a loving community, we are each part of the story of the paralytic being carried by his friends to Jesus, then it becomes apparent that I have a significant choice to make: do I always want to be the one carrying my friends, or do I allow them the opportunity to carry me as well?
Written by a member of the Sanctuary Community