Growing up, I played a fair amount of golf. My parents would drop me off in the morning and pick me up later that afternoon.

Many days, I was by myself, just me and the narrow fairways.

image credit: Creative Commons

There’s something epic about that picture to me, even now. Here’s the picture:

A 12 year old beating buckets of range balls on the dew-soaked ground until his hands callous over while the sun comes up. Walking 9 hours on a golf course by himself, evaluating every shot, pouring over every sliding putt. Kicking himself every drive that trickled into the second cut of rough. Spending hours on the putting green engraining that perfect putting stroke.

Gotcha fooled

And I’d love to say that that was the real picture. But more often than not, halfway through the first bucket of range balls, I’d decide to call it quits and just start my round. By hole 5, instead of lining up every putt, I would try to break my speed record of how quickly I could finish the hole.

It wasn’t gritty. It wasn’t hard, disciplined work. There was nothing epic about it. No Braveheart music was playing in the background as the sun set.

For too long, I operated by myself spiritually, too. And I don’t mean that I wasn’t a part of a local church. I don’t mean I was intentionally trying to go it alone. It just sort of happened.

The trap is set

Sin snuck up on me, and I chose to bury it.

Instead of bearing my soul, I hid it, covering up with a mask of, “It’s all good.” Putting on a facade, I chose to battle my sin alone, me-and-Jesus style.

The more I wore my mask, the fuller and more beautiful it became. Me-and-Jesus style was safe, but damaging. It was safe, but kept people at a distance. It was safe, but held me back.

It wasn’t gritty. It wasn’t hard, disciplined work. There was nothing epic about it. No Braveheart music was playing in the background as the sun set.

It was a life of acting like I was okay. Acting like I always had it together. Acting like I had all of the answers. Projecting an image I wanted you to see. But in my heart, knowing I wasn’t taking the steps of faith I needed.

Bringing other guys into the battle with me made all of the difference. Jesus was more than enough for my salvation…but sanctification was another thing. I needed authentic community. I needed significant relationships where I could be honest. I needed to be known.

God’s not created us to go through life on our own. The more you try to, the less fulfilling you’ll find life to be. You’ll also find that sin overtakes much quicker, fears conquer, doubts are more persuasive, sin more enticing, passing problems overwhelm much more fully, and the daily grind of life takes its toll more rapidly.

You were created incomplete…needing to be invested in. As much as you need to be invested in, you also need to invest in others. That’s the double-edged beauty that is community.

Authentic community is real, messy, gut-wrenching, and full of grace and hope.

I need that.

And so do you.

Let love be without hypocrisy. – Romans 12:9

* image credit: Creative Commons user FoxyPar4