Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do hard things. Sometimes those hard things bring us the best things. Jen Hatmaker shares her own experience with early mornings and it’s unexpected surprises.

She tricked me by way of my big heart. That is the first thing you need to know.

Oh sure, I guess some of the other girls were there for “fitness” or “health” or “strength training” or whatever the heck gets them out of bed in the morning. This was in their lane, in line with their goals and values. It was an easy yes, I can only assume. I was there for one reason and one reason only. Because Susan said:

“I’m leading a one-month boot camp for $100 which goes entirely to Austin Angels.”

That’s a low blow, man. Susan knew how much I loved her work with foster kids and their families. She knew it! She was never going to hook me with concern for my own health and wellbeing; it was never going to capitalize on my commitment to working out which, as it turned out, wasn’t a thing. It had to be my bleeding heart.

Which is the only reason I can possibly give you as to why I showed up at…5:30am…five days a week for a solid month to be bossed and pushed around and made to sprint. Sprint! What is this? My high school softball team? Sprint is a phone company, not a thing I am going to do with my legs.

Anyhow, there I was, pre-dawn after pre-dawn, dragging my old body to the grassy front lawn of a real estate office up the street. Susan, our fitness leader and shameless solicitor of nonprofit funds, told us in her cheerful, perky voice: “Don’t even think about being late! I’ll call you if you start bailing!” So I’d show up with my boot camp compatriots, and we’d silently roll out our yoga mats, set up our weights, squint at Susan’s headlights, which was our only source of light in the pitch black of night. There was simply no talking yet at 5:28am. Because no.

But after a few minutes of warm-ups, the other girls and I would start chatting. Mainly in solidarity against Susan, but still. We’d breathlessly discuss babies and new jobs and husbands and trash television. We’d partner in truly heinous ab reps, wheezing through promotion updates and upcoming business deals. We would sprint in groups, laughing hysterically at our form, wondering why we were tearing down the road in the middle of the night like maniacs. We grabbed hands while we stretched our quads, furious at the mistreatment but grateful for some solidarity. Some of us were single, some newly married, some full-time career gals, some stay home moms, some, um, a bit older than the others and a full ten feet behind them during sprints, but this was a judgment free zone and we were not as fast as we once were.

And then we got to my favorite part: the last three minutes. Because Susan had a shred of mercy, the final few minutes were magic. It was just before 6:30, right as the sun was rising, and we’d lay on our mats under a 100-year-old tree and pray and breathe and thank God for these bodies that still managed to lift weights and do push ups and lunges. I could hear my friends breathing, some whispering their prayers out loud whether they knew they were doing it or not.

Sometimes community comes in the ways you think it will: through your kids’ school or your neighborhood or your work colleagues. Maybe your old college girlfriends or your Bible study group or book club. It’s easier sometimes when you are all the same age or all in the same stage of life or all at the same church.

But sometimes you find community where you least expect it, in a place you didn't plan on going, in a field you never expected to attend. Click To TweetYou have very little in common perhaps; outside of that endeavor, you may never have gathered those same people in a room in a million years. Yet…something there is sweet, something special shared, something that brings you together and unites you in a way you never predicted. You find common ground in a similar goal, a similar commitment, a similar desire, and this can span generations, life stages, ideologies, geography.

If you are lonely today, if you crave community, you may find it where you least expect it. You might discover it in unlikely places, where all you share is one mutual devotion, one shared objective. You may not have any of the usual suspects in common, and it may not matter. The encouragement, the united labor, it could very well lead you to relationships that develop well beyond their initial connection if you will give it a chance to grow and become something real and true and deep.

You may find yourself lying under an old oak tree, listening to your new friends breathe and pray for three minutes, and you might discover that you are praying for them, that they have become precious to you, that somewhere between the sprints and the laughter, you found a bit of love.