Hello there Newbie,
I want you to image that I’m showing up at your door right now with a drink and a snack. You smile brightly as you open the door, but you hesitate to let me in. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have time for a visit. You have unpacking to do, and a long list of things to buy (and don’t know where to find 90% of that list). And you’re embarrassed to let me in. There is a pile of dirty laundry in the corner. Suitcases and luggage lockers have exploded across the room.
I know all this, but I invite myself in anyway. I scoot a pile over and plop down on your couch. Or maybe on the floor if you don’t have furniture yet. I’m cool with that.
I hand you your drink and say, “So you’re settling in. Did anyone tell you that ‘settling’ takes about ten times longer that you expect? Yeah. Don’t worry. You’ll get there. I want to ask you how it’s going with your team. How are you doing?”
Now chances are, you’re going to give me one of three responses:
1. The Happy Honeymooner
If this is you, you’re going to gush about how great your team is. Everyone is great. Everything is awesome. I’m so happy for you. Really. The honeymoon stage is important. I’m here to tell you to soak it up. Build a solid foundation of memories and laughter and bonding during this stage. Ask each other all the questions. Do all the new things. Have all the fun.
And then don’t freak out when the honeymoon is over. Don’t be surprised when the awesomeness wears off, and people start to get annoying and disappointing. It will happen. And it is normal. You have entered the storming stage of the norming, storming, preforming process. When the storming hits, remember. Remember the warm feelings you are experiencing now during the honeymoon. Go back and remember all that you love and appreciate about your team.
2. The Indignant Idealist
Some of you will skip right over the honeymoon stage. This usually happens if A.) You have difficult teammates B.) You are an idealist C.) A combination of both (Hint: it’s usually C.)
You’ve got a list of all the offenses your teammates have already inflicted. They have failed to welcome you and help you in the way you envisioned when you dreamed of your arrival. And it hurts.
I’m not here to minimize that hurt. It’s real. I’m truly sorry for that pain. I ‘m here to nudge you towards extra measures of grace for your teammates. As an idealist, it’s easy to assume the worst – that your teammates simply don’t care. But remember that you have not been in their shoes. You don’t know the wounds and weariness that they carry. If they are veteran teammates, you don’t know how many times they have welcomed teammates through the revolving door of cross-cultural life. Be gracious. With your freshness, see how you can bless and breathe life to them.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes people aren’t helping you because they don’t know what you need.
Then remember that your ideal of community and team doesn’t actually exist. You live in the reality of broken, messy life. The key to a beautiful team is to embrace that reality and learn to find the goodness in what you have.
3. The Arm’s Length Army
If you are neither of the above, then chances are you are part of the Arm’s Length Army. Many of us come from a home culture where this is the natural default. We’re great at being warm and friendly when we meet people, but then we quickly go about living our separate lives. It can be quite a shock to experience team life, because team life (if done well) doesn’t let you do this. It forces you to actually do life together.
How do you feel about suddenly having people all up in your business? Did you know one person could be your colleague, your family-away-from-family, your church, AND your neighbor? There is no equivalent in our home cultures. Welcome to team.
If you are a person that naturally keeps people at arm’s length, if you struggle to let people in, if most of your relationships hang out in the shallow end, then consider team life your invitation to the deep end.
“But Danielle,” you say, “You never had my teammates…” Well, I’ve had 41 different teammates, so I may have actually had your teammate. Or someone with the same not-so-endearing qualities as your teammate.
So I can tell you that yes, it will be hard. Really hard sometimes. But oh, it will be good. Submersion into close community with others will bring out areas in your own character that you didn’t know existed. It will test and stretch the boundaries of your ability to love and serve others. If you’re serious about becoming Christ-like, here’s your chance.
If you do the hard work of shedding what weighs you down, of training your heart muscles to open and embrace rather than withdraw, you’re going to taste what community is meant to be.
And THAT may be the greatest impact you have on the area you came to serve. When the world sees the beauty of teams being the Body, of a group of people that live and love and lean into each other, they will want in on it.
Whether you are a happy honeymooner, an indignant idealist, or part of the arm’s length army, the temptation will come (because the enemy’s favorite thing is to wreak havoc in teams) to not put your heart into team. You have enough to worry about (like that laundry pile in the corner). But please don’t hold back. Please take the risk and dive in.
Now how about we go share this precious care-package snack with your teammates, shall we?
And pssst, you might want to check and see if you (or your teammates) are one of the 6 People That Kill Community.
So now let’s hear from all of you!
What has God taught you through team? What are the struggles and the joys? Have you been a Happy Honeymooner, an Indignant Idealist or part of the Arm’s Length Army? Or one of the 6 community killers?
And related to team, did anyone find Emilie and Denise’s testimonies from this year’s Receive Retreat incredibly encouraging?!
This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.
Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesWelcome. You can add yours!