Written by Mekahla Peterson
Kansas City Fellow – Class of 2016-2017
In college I had two wonderful friends named Maria and Natalie. The second semester of my senior year I felt Maria becoming distant from me, but me being a person afraid of interpersonal conflict I did not approach her about this. One day she called me and brought up the distance. She said, “I always felt like the burden of the friendship was on me, I did not know if you cared about me, so I kept my distance to see if you would fight for our friendship.” We cried and worked through it. Then a week later Maria, Natalie and I talked about the situation. Natalie, being a pastor’s daughter, brought up a wonderful quote by the church’s favorite hipster theologian C.S. Lewis that says:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure to keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; voice all entanglements. Lock it up safe win the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless,airless it will change. It will not be broken; it will become breakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable”
At the core of Maria and My’s conflict was the fact that even though I’ve been close to her for three years I was still afraid to be completely vulnerable with her. I am not only talking about emotional intimacy with this, but instead an intimacy that allows for rejection. See, you can be emotionally intimate with someone and they will not fully reject that, because for the most part people are open to that. No, the kind of intimacy that brings, or rips apart, a community is one that allows for rejection.
Flash forward a few months to September when I started the Kansas City Fellows program and I realized that I still have my heart in a coffin of selfishness. I am afraid to get close to this community, because they are new people who may not understand me. In order to stay safe I hide. I choose not to hang out with people, when there are gatherings I stay quiet in my own little corner, and I do not seek deep conversations.
This went on until the woman who is living with us, Ellie, was there for me when I was struggling with my self worth. She offered to pray with me every night until things got better. We do this every night, praying for one another. We carve out time for one another without fear of rejection to achieve spiritual intimacy with one another. I have also worked to make time for the Fellows community. Putting the needs of others, whether it’s deep intentional conversations or doing a silly video, before my own. In this I understand that I cannot constantly be served, but I must also serve those in the fellowship. Because of this Jesus has slowly chipped away at the coffin around my heart, slowly opening up myself to intimacy with this community. Adjusting is extremely difficult. I had a wonderful church community in Manhattan, but I know that in order to love this new community at all I must be vulnerable.