Community.

Community can look very different during the summer. Especially if you are going from a place with constant accountability like Wesley, to different places around the world away from what you’re used to, community can look very different. Your community may look like just you and your family, different faces every week, or a group of total strangers that you have to live with. Whatever it may look like for you, know that if you are struggling with it, you are not alone. Community over the summer is HARD.

One of the biggest things I have struggled with over the years during summer break has been how to operate with healthy boundaries in a community that looks very different from our day to day at Wesley throughout the school year. At Wesley, we have a safe environment that encourages vulnerability in our relationships. Between small groups, discipleship, and friends who are chasing after God with you, you have numerous opportunities to open up and talk about what’s going on in your life in a healthy way. But when everyone separates for the summer a lot of these things stop. When this happens, how do you handle the shift? Because, God is still moving in your life, things are still happening that you may need to process out, you’re still human and therefore you are still going to face trials… So what do you do?

It has been my observation so many times that one of two things can happen when you don’t have your normal community to talk to.

  1. You overshare with people who probably don’t need to know all of these personal things about you.
  2. You isolate yourself and rebuild walls you spent the past year tearing down. You may not even realize you are doing so, because you mistake walls for boundaries. 

If you fall into this first category, it can get messy pretty fast. Community in your life should have different levels. Jesus demonstrates this in His time here on earth. He is kind and loving to every person He encounters, but He has 12 who truly know Him. Beyond that He has two that know more than the other 10, John and Peter. You could say they are Jesus’ right hand men and have the most access to Him and His life. Jesus modeled this lifestyle, and therefore it is important that we practice it as well.
 
During the school year, you have your discipler/small group leader/mentor, and a couple of very close friends who will walk with you through the deepest parts of your life. These are what our director, Daniel Simmons, would call your “not everyone needs to know, but someone has to know” people. Then you have your friend groups, who get to do life with you, but aren’t going to know every detail. Then you have your coworkers and acquaintances, who get to spend time with you and have some good conversations here and there, but they won’t know everything you do. Then you have your peers, who you should be kind to and love them well, but they don’t get access to any part of your personal life.

Over the summer, these circles get distorted due to differing physical locations, change in schedules, and other things that change your day to day interactions. So, if you are not with your close people, you may begin to crave talking out the things happening in the depths of your heart, especially if you are a verbal processor. But, its very important that you don’t go out and begin letting random people into places of your heart that they haven't earned access to yet. This can wind up hurting you, and may put unfair expectations on the other person that they won’t know how, or even be able, to meet, leaving you both hurt in the end.
 
If you find yourself falling on this end of the spectrum some helpful tips to keep your boundaries clear and walk in spiritually healthy community are:

  1. Identify your inner circle people. (Your personal John and Peter) 
  2. If you are with them this summer, great! Do what you normally do :)
  3. If they are far away, set up some type of accountability system with them that works for the both of you. (For me, if I begin feeling a certain way that is connected to the deeper parts of me, I shoot my people a text and say “Hey! Just letting you know this is happening in me, I would love to talk when you are free. No rush, I’m just texting you now so you can hold me accountable to talk about it when we are together.” Yours may look similar, or it may be totally different, as long as both of you are happy with it, do your thing :) Accountability is key.
  4. Know yourself. Take notice of patterns you fall into, what emotions are drawn out in what circumstances? When you begin to identify triggers to emotional things that may be heavy for you (or just topics that identify with the depths of your heart), make sure you have an outlet where you can talk about it after you experience these things so you don’t spill your guts to the first person you see. 
  5. Journal. If you don’t have a way to contact your people, writing everything out on a page can be extremely helpful to both process, and have as a reference for whenever you get back with your people and want to talk. 

Now, if you find yourself falling into the second category, it can be a little sneakier, but eventually it will cause issues down the road. Not having set times in your week with the people you normally let in can cause your mind to start spinning in circles and you can easily forget to look at what God is doing in a certain situation. If you have a hard time trusting people you may not know how to reach out and speak up when something is stirring inside of you. And when you get around new people you may act more cautious as a means to not let people in too early. There is a lot of wisdom to this one, but sometimes, in an effort to maintain healthy boundaries you can accidentally build a wall in its place. By hiding what is happening within you to those around you, the walls begin to form and eventually trap everything into a small compartment where even you may not be able to reach them. To some of you, that may sound great because it means you won’t feel the hard things. But I can promise you that that is not the case. I have learned that numbness is a type of pain we don’t have words for. You think you’re good but when you finally crash, it hurts more than before because the whole time you were numbing, the wound was digging deeper.
 
So how do you avoid numbing your feelings and isolating yourself in the summer when your community is not around? I would say that my advice is pretty similar to the first side, the difference is the inner battle in yourself you will need to overcome when putting them into practice.

  1. Know your inner circle people.
  2. Set up your accountability - and actually reach out to them. 
  3. Journal - let God into this process with you.
  4. Make plans. Don’t get swept away in your inner world and pull back from normal community fun. Hang out with people. You can have a healthy balance of rest and activities. 
  5. If your summer is pretty dull, try to set a schedule and stick to it. It can have grocery store runs, cooking, gym time, and reading on it in addition to work and plans with people. But stick with it, this will help you avoid overthinking everything by yourself or, on the flip-side, just laying in bed and not addressing anything going on in your life.
  6. Take time to remember how far God has brought you in the past year. It may surprise you how much He has moved - this will help you to maintain your breakthroughs and keep yourself from falling back into old habits and keep your eyes towards God when you feel alone. 

Summertime can be the best - but it can also be really tough. So keep your head held high and keep moving forward, God has good things for you this summer. And August will be here sooner than you know. :))

Author | Tori Kramer

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