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3 Reasons Why We Need Others

David Robbins

A Forbes report was recently released declaring the top 25 cities for millennials to live.

There were a few surprising newcomers of interest, but one thing that stood out to me (only partially tainted by the fact that I live here): 5 of the 25 “cities” were within the New York City metropolitan area. Queens, Brooklyn and even Jersey City at #5 (who knew?!) held their own spots on the list.

It is more than intriguing to me; it affirms again what I am reminded of often as I interact with phenomenal millennials daily in this city.

Although NYC is not the center of the universe like some of us here may like to believe, it is a place that shapes culture in significant ways.

And the many millennials here are a generation of people who already have significant platform to steward – that will certainly only increase – toward the renewal of all things. I pray often that millennials of New York would be a group of people, similar to what scripture says about the people of Thessalonica, whose faith is someday known around the globe.

The reality, however, is that New York City is a place that refines faith and surfaces what truly exists. Even if you don’t live in New York, perhaps you’ve experienced the same in your city. It can expose doubts in things we never imagined we would question. It can also expose sin that lies way beneath the surface and we never thought would work its way out.

But what if this is all actually a really good thing?

…What if the refining process we encounter in the city actually leads to a wholeness in our faith that is rarely seen?

...What if it didn’t cause us to retreat, but actually enables us to express something authentic that the world can’t ignore?

A grounded wholeness that is rarely fleshed out for the world to see. A seamless integrity throughout work, friendships, relationships, going out, all of life that evokes mystery as people brush up against it day to day. An undivided life willing to face the dark side inside by centering ourselves to listen to God’s Spirit He has placed inside of us. And a God given freedom to be raw and honest, because we have nothing to prove under the security of being the Beloved of Jesus.

This sounds good and I yearn to be whole, but dividedness often seems easier. It is so much easier to default into a different narrative.

The divided life often ends up looking like this:

  • We harbor secrets to achieve personal gain at the expense of other people.
  • We remain in settings or relationships that steadily kill off our spirits.
  • We hide our beliefs from those who disagree with us to avoid conflict, challenge, and change.
  • We conceal our true identities for fear of being criticized, shunned, or attacked.
  • We refuse to invest ourselves in our work, diminishing its quality and distancing ourselves from those it is meant to serve.
  • We make our living at jobs that violate our basic values, even when survival does not absolutely demand it.
  • We feel fraudulent, even invisible, because we are not in the world as who we really are.
  • We deny our inner darkness, giving it more power over us.
  • Our inauthenticity and projections make real relationships impossible, leading to loneliness.

Even though it’s overwhelming, we are not stuck. The journey toward experiencing wholeness rooted deeply in Jesus may not always be an easy one, but one God has promised He will be faithful to complete.

And I am more convinced than ever, if we are going to faithfully pursue wholeness in this city context, we will need others in the journey.

Three reasons I continue to learn on why taking the risk (again and again) to travel beneath the surface in our lives with others is worth it:

  1. The journey toward inner truth is too taxing to be made solo. Lacking support, the solitary traveler soon becomes weary or fearful and is likely to quit the road.
  2. The path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company. Finding our way involves clues that are subtle and sometimes misleading, requiring the kind of discernment that can often only happen in dialogue.
  3. The destination is too daunting to be achieved alone. We need community to find the courage to venture into the alien lands to which the inner teacher may call us.

The bottom line is: we all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us discern the Spirit’s voice that invites us into wholeness.

Choosing wholeness suddenly turns out to be risky business, making us vulnerable in ways we would prefer to avoid.  

But we cannot embrace this challenge all alone, at least, not for long; we need trustworthy relationships, tenacious communities of support, if we are to sustain the journey toward an undivided life.

As Parker Palmer says, “The journey has solitary passages, to be sure, and yet it is simply too arduous to take without the assistance of others.”  

And for me, the motivation comes from just enough self-awareness. We have such a vast capacity for self-delusion, we will inevitably get lost en route without input and correctives from outside of ourselves.

Originally posted on Flourishing City, the blog for Cru's city ministry in New York. Used with permission.

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