Born of a need to simplify the outsized "community groups" of our local church, there are just six of us - three married couples - and we came to the table wounded, or tired, or both.

We meet just once a month, and we rotate homes. It's easy on the hosts and we look forward to every carefully planned dinner, every meaningful conversation.

If I could tell you what we have weathered together over the past 20 months as a supper club, you might find yourself in our stories. You might understand the despair that catches the faithful completely off-guard and threatens to take us under into a suffocating death that sees the end of lifetimes spent in churches and church communities. The threat has palpably edged its way into each of our six lives, and it seems that just as one of us comes up for air, another is brought down under its weight, plunging and flailing and gasping to inhale some oxygen. 

We are the supper club of the struggling.

What makes that pronouncement odd is the fact that we are, each of us, somehow tied to ministry, either currently or in the recent past. We aren't supposed to be the ones who struggle. We're supposed to be the people who are firm in our faith, solid in our theology, and unwavering as we serve and encourage and carry the load for others. Instead, we've found a safe place to wrestle with doubt and discouragement.

It's desirable and healthy to be able to say the hard stuff.

We don't expect to have all the answers. I think that's why I love these five other people the most. When I unleash my deepest struggles into sharp, tangled words, there is no condemnation. There is a genuine desire to understand and to question and to remind me of the truth, but there is no judgment. No one walks away, gets into their car and talks about me as if there is some ethereal or actual spiritual ranking in place and I have just bumped my way down the rungs to level zero. I don't walk away doing the same. 

It's desirable and healthy to be able to say the hard stuff. It's right and good that we should be safe places for others to do so. If you want a supper club like that, be the supper club like that. When we are real, when we show our true hurt, when we share the hardest, ugliest sides and imperfections, something beautiful happens: we free others to do the same. We become the safe place, and soon we realize that the shiny, polished, all-together people are the ones who hurt the most. 

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