A Community of Trust: A Message from Executive Director Chris Purnell

 
 Chris Purnell

Chris Purnell

 

I’m a loner, a wolf-pack of one. And while having two kids and a wife has shaved off some of my more idiosyncratic loner tendencies, there is still part of me that wouldn’t mind not having every decision challenged and every comment I make answered with, “Why?”

It’s tough, this community thing. On the one hand, I desperately want it. In fact, when my sweet 7-year old daughter asked me what my biggest fear is, I told her, “Well, Kiddo, it’s a little complicated, but I am deeply afraid of being alone. I mean, I like my ‘me’ time, but there’s a part of me that is worried about being abandoned by everyone I love.” She had a what-the-heck look on her face, so I asked her the same question. Her eyes got big as she said, “Fires,” followed up quickly with, “Also, burglars.” We really connected.

So, I’m afraid to be alone, but I’m also afraid of being dependent on and trusting other people. But that’s the funny thing about being human: we were created to live and work and worship and weep and rejoice together. But many of us have been alienated by communities that we trust. Sometimes, they were our first and most intimate communities; other times, they are our current community, and we are wondering whether we can ever trust that community again.

Our clients at the Clinic oftentimes come from unbelievably broken communities. Neighbor betrayed neighbor to corrupt authorities; a husband betrayed his sacred trust so that he could misuse and malign his wife; parents turned their backs on children, causing them to fall into a cycle of wrestling with homelessness.

And yet, they still come back to community. They reach out for it. They crave it. They fashion new communities of other survivors who are on the path to flourishing again after a brush with victimization. Even after the most intimate betrayals, they continue to place themselves in vulnerable positions of trust. They bravely risk harm again.

The Apostle Paul knew how hard community and trust was. It is one of his favorite topics in his letters. This is key: He knew that the way to foster community among a diverse group of people was to remind them that they belong to one Lord, one God—and that they always, always, are living for him. He wrote in the Letter to the Romans, “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.”

The key to community is remembering that you are already part of the community of God himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who trust in Jesus are invited into the most rich and beautiful community, so that they can bravely reach out in trust to others—again, and again, and again.

May you reach out in trust, even after a season of betrayal, because you know that there is a God who knows and loves you, and has invited you into the community that existed before time began.

Until Justice and Peace embrace,

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Chris

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