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The Lonely Ponytail

by JANEL BREITENSTEIN COMMUNITY Close friendships overseas Finding community Isolation & loneliness
The Lonely Ponytail
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“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’”
1 Corinthians 12:21

Sometimes I’m confused by an aspect of the global worker heroes of, say, the nineteenth century. While I have no small degree of awe for what they accomplished—the Adoniram Judsons, the Amy Carmichaels—I wonder about what it would be like if I’d stepped off the bouncing jetway in Uganda using only my ponytail. That’s it. (Work with me here.)

In the Gospels, I see Jesus sending the disciples off in pairs. Perhaps this was for reasons of protection, and being able to send one disciple to get groceries. But the older I get, the more I realize that when people interact with me, they’re only interacting with one part of the Body of Christ. Rather than the ponytail, I might be the equivalent of the pancreas or something. I’m thinking, if these people want to see Jesus, they probably need to see more than, y’know, his kneecap.

It follows that the Body of Christ—our community—more robustly and beautifully shows the world Jesus as it functions together. Of course we can display Jesus one by one. But the world, Jesus says, will know we’re His disciples by how we love one another (John 13:35)—even when we’re muscling through conflict or mentally using Lamaze techniques to ignore another global worker’s social skills. Or lack thereof.

And as we build community overseas, it’s those relationships that will act as a vehicle for the Gospel. In part, this is because community displays a trinitarian God, giving and receiving in perfection before the world was made. It’s no wonder that just a chapter and a half into the Bible, we’re confronted with a stark statement by God: It is not good for man to be alone.

But for me, one of the biggest obstacles to community can simply be…admitting my need. Like Peter resisting his foot-washing, I chafe at someone serving me—partly because I associate my own needs with shame. I feel much more comfortable as the giver than the receiver.

Yet biblically, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Which apparently means even if I feel completely comfortable as ponytail or pancreas or kneecap—I’m in spiritual dysfunction when I prefer isolation. Especially since usually I’m dwelling in…pride. (Tell no one!) 

For the sake of Jesus being fully displayed? Let’s get un-alone. 

Closing Prayer
Lord, create a healthy longing in me for community—both within the Body of Christ, and with those you’ve sent me to love. Help me admit my need and accept the help. Display your love in my relationships, especially when things aren’t going right. Amen.
Question for Reflection

What’s your biggest obstacle to community right now—and your biggest need for prayer and creative problem-solving in this area?

Janel Breitenstein
November 24, 2022

I do think pride is my greatest weakness—manifesting in my embarrassment when people serve me. (Jesus and Paul accepted others serving them… I have a problem.) I also struggle with depression and anxiety, which perpetuate self-isolation. I’m getting the counseling I need.