Why You Need Community Even If You're Not Sure About God

Because you might go nuts otherwise.

The other day I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic, but I’ve heard these gathering are really powerful, so when my friend asked me if I wanted to check it out I obliged.

And it was powerful, indeed.

There’s a lot of structure, liturgy if you will, to these meetings. There are instructions and readings. There are moments for listening, moments for sharing, and moments for everyone to recite text together. 

It was the most unreligious religious thing I’ve ever experienced. It was beautiful.

There’s something about that coming together that moves me. If you’re there, it’s because you need to be. It’s not because of any great achievement . It’s because you’re desperate, or at least know what desperate feels like and don’t want to go back.

It’s real.

It’s bunch of people committed to honesty.

And not only do they have group meetings, but they also have sponsorship. This means grabbing another AA member and being available for check-ins….being available if shit hits the fan or to be a shoulder to cry on.

I’ve heard all the objections to AA and while I’m sure the organization isn’t perfect, I can’t shake the sense of holiness I had at this meeting. I think they’re onto something.

It reminds me of a lesson I learned as a teenager. I was probably 15 and I remember telling my dad that I wasn’t sure if God existed. With a tone fit for ordering lunch, he replied

“If God is real, he’s big enough for your questions.”

Just like that. No drama.

Looking back, I think there’s about a million reasons this was an enlightened thing my dad did.

If he had said “Oh my God, Joshua! Don’t think that! You might go to Hell!” I think I would have panicked. For a long time. And then been bitter twenty years later.

But that’s not what happened and I’m grateful.

What my dad really said was this: “You belong even if you don’t have all the answers. You can be unraveled and still accepted.”

Ah yes, balm to the insecure teenage soul.

But it’s balm to any soul.

Everyone needs to know there’s at least a few people who will embrace them even if they don’t know which way is up, even they’ve just experienced huge failure.

Everybody needs that.

I’ve noticed there are some folks who think they shouldn’t ever feel weak, that they shouldn’t have moments where the world feels upside down. This is an unrealistic way to live. Give it some years, it will wear out and poison the soul.

If you have loved ones, please tap into them. I have cried as an adult in my parents’ kitchen. I have asked friends for hugs when I had no idea how to articulate my woes. I’ve also waited way to long to reach out, which is why I write.

Don’t wait until you’re out of your mind. Tap into love when you need it. Especially when you feel like a loser and when you don’t know who God is. That’s the time you need it most.

Jesus, thank you that as a human, you had meaningful human relationships you leaned into. You wept and laughed with your friends. Help me do the same. Amen.