What if—instead of quitting the communities that fail us (church, PTA, book club)—we practice stubborn loyalty, trusting that the crucible will make us all stronger and gentler?
Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord. – Jeremiah 29:12-14 (NRSV)
Have you ever joined a new community with all kinds of high ideals, say: a church, the PTA, a book group, a new parents’ support group? Things start strong, but soon the fault lines reveal themselves. Parking is beastly. Someone is a little too bossy or quirky or talkative. They get your name wrong. You didn’t feel heard, or seen, or fed.
The more you go, the more you see what is not working. You don’t always leave with the pure, peaceful good feelings you hoped for. The vote doesn’t go your way. You do the math, and decide you’re not getting a good enough return on investment, and you quit—or the 21st century equivalent: ghost. Who can blame you?
God, maybe. One of the dominant themes of the Bible is of people who get bored, flake out, wander after hipper gods-du-jour, or when the going gets hard, get going—in the opposite direction.
And what does God do? The opposite of ghosting them. God may fuss and fume, but God pursues the antiheroes with a devotion they don’t deserve, and receives them back with stubborn, unquestioning loyalty when they show up needy again.
My friend Rev. Lynice Pinkard champions the concept of stubborn loyalty, not just between God and people, but between people themselves. She writes:
“Community is a collision of egos, a furnace for welding steel-hard opinions, a crucible for melting the hard ores of self-interest into common Love goals. It offers the pain of not getting our own way, the promise of finding a third way together.”
What would it look like if the next time your community annoyed or failed you, instead of voting with your feet or your wallet, you leaned in? Thanking it for the collision of egos that might result in working off some of your own warts, and for the crucible that turns you into someone stronger and gentler than you could ever have imagined?
God: melt us, mold us, fill us, use us, to make something mightier than our solo selves. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.