Do you have a community? They don’t all have to be exactly like you (in fact I find it’s richer when they’re not), but do you have a village?
I ask because I know what it’s like to live in a different town, far from family and have to raise kids without help, with sometimes tense relations, at a church I didn’t grow up attending, with only half of my family supporting our spiritual beliefs or parenting styles. Some of our family doesn’t even talk to us.
Can you believe that? I can, because it’s real life! It sucks and it’s messy sometimes, and no I don’t always handle it well. But since not everyone knows what it’s like, I’ve found it to be helpful as I work hard to “build my village” when people can relate to some of our story. I know how valuable a check-in here and there from a well-meaning friend can be, no matter how involved or connected we might seem.
It’s been a pretty difficult last few months with regard to the various communities I’m involved in:
- lacking support from our small group because our group is new and we are still finding our groove with people coming and going,
- lacking support for our small group because there has been a vacancy in the Small Groups Pastor position for 2 years, and our church is going through a major transition,
- lacking support for the mothers ministry, because the leader of our women’s ministry is out on bereavement leave, (and the aforementioned pastoral vacancy)
- lacking support from the mothers ministry with an ongoing trend that I’m trying to break where mothers of older children feel they can’t come because they are not in this stage.
This list only scratches the surface; it doesn’t touch on the other difficulties weighing on me this month: friends leaving, family dying, friends dying, miscarriage awareness month, sick kids, birthday parties, holiday planning, family stress, and overall time management (to my dismay, I’ve never been great at that last one).
Has anyone else been here, or someplace similar? It’s not fun! But God is gracious and merciful to me, because I have been here before. The reason this is a good thing is because I know now what to expect. Thankfully I’m learning how to manage some of these things. As a result of having been there, I’m trying to make a point to be proactive in helping others.
I believe part of the reason for this is that Jesus has called me to be an encourager. Does that mean I’m positive and happy about everything all the time? I sure like the idea of that, but the reality is “no.” But it does mean actively seeking the joy that comes from the Lord and glorifying Him in all I do. I can’t meet everyone’s needs, but I can certainly meet some.
This is where a community comes in. This is “the village” I’m always talking about.
There are real needs to be met among the women in our church. Our church is going through a huge transition, as I said above, and I want to be understanding to the time and needs involved in all of that! Yet as a result, the reality is there are unmet needs, desires, schedules, requests. We are called in Scripture to bear one another’s burdens. I can’t bear them all, but I can certainly help bear some.
Sometimes, and I have seen this made abundantly clear in my own life as of late, we don’t have anyone to walk alongside us on whatever journey we’re on until we seek them out or ask; and sometimes, we have to ask repeatedly. Sometimes we have to manually begin to build our own village. Sometimes we have to ask people into our village or if we can join theirs; sometimes we are turned down. I’ve experienced this, too. People really suck sometimes, but thankfully the Lord is gracious. Sometimes the most growth and learning that we experience is in the period of waiting. He redeems us even in the no’s; sometimes the no’s point to His Yes!
At the end of the day, we are all uniquely gifted; diversity in the body of Christ is a good thing! We need people we can relate to, but we also need people who aren’t like us, so we can see through our blindspots. However, we cannot walk this journey alone. You can be “connected” and still be alone. I’ve been involved in my church in one way or another for ten years, but does that mean I don’t need someone to check in or ask how I’m doing? No!
So what can you do, if you’re in this spot or you know someone who is? First off, even though people can be messy, asking how someone is doing is never a bad thing. So don’t be afraid. You never know what you might learn. Be kinder than necessary—everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Next, don’t act as though you’re really above reproach. Be intentional about your behavior and desire to live above reproach, but seek it from humility and a desire to learn and grow. Having a haughty attitude about all you’ve done right doesn’t help your struggling neighbor.
“When in doubt, say the most loving thing, and you will not be wrong.” There are a lot of quotes and anecdotes to put in here, but the idea is straightforward: learn from your mistakes. Be willing to admit you messed up, failed someone. Be willing to learn how to be better next time. Be bold to speak up and ask for help. Be confident to draw near the throne of grace to receive help and mercy in your time of trouble. Be loving toward others. Remember what it is like to be low, alone, struggling, sad, burdened; praise the Lord when you’re not there, and glorify Him by helping others.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t let your community fail you. But also, don’t fail your community.