A few weeks ago, we found ourselves in the hospital, again, with our 5-year-old. The last time he was in the hospital, it was such an isolating experience. Only one friend came to visit & she brought me coffee – to this day, I thank you, Kristy. But I felt so alone. A new-mom with a 15-month-old in respiratory distress, in the hospital, with no one to help. My husband had gone to work, my mother-in-law was working, my father-in-law was terrified of hospitals, my family was dispersed across the country, & friends were too busy to help. I was without community.
When I think of community, I immediately think of Matthew 18:20 – “where two or more are gathered in my name there also I will be”. This verse isn’t about the exact community I am talking about but it does talk about community: the good, the bad, or the ugly. As a community, we are called to hold each other accountable, in sin & in blessing. My husband was my accountability & only community last time. I complained about how no one supported us or helped us, to which he replied, “well, we aren’t really involved either.” What he meant was that at the time we weren’t really involved in “doing life” with others. We went to church, but didn’t have a small group & weren’t involved in Bible studies. I had friends, but let’s be honest: they weren’t the friends you could count on in crisis. They were convenient friendships.
As the church, we are called to be community for each other. Family. Sisters & brothers in Christ. But when we aren’t involved in that family, can we honestly expect them to know what we need…especially when we don’t tell them? I learned from that experience that we can’t cry or complain about the lack of community when we haven’t done anything to foster it.
But this time was different.
This go around we had so many people available & willing to help us, we were literally & honestly telling people “we don’t need anything.” So what was the difference this time? One word: community!
Our community came out of the wood work to lift us up. Our brothers & sisters of the church laid down their plans, schedules, & desires for their day to come to us when we needed them. We had people praying for us (& not the “I’m praying for you” but the real, honest “how can we pray for you” kind of way) – thank you, Kathy, Keisha, Wendy, Wendie, Janice, Jessica & AJ, & BB. Others brought us food- thank you Priscilla, Erika, & Rachel. We had visitors or offers for visits – thank you David, Priscilla, & Jennifer. And to top it all off, our small group leader picked up our two-year-old from school took her home & then took her the next day, too – thank you, P, you will never know just how much help that was.
Our community lived out the words of 1 John 3:16-18
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. But if anyone has the worlds good & sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in work or talk but in deed or truth.”
They didn’t just tell us with their mouths that they would help us. They didn’t just flatter us with pretty words or the “right” words, like many in the church are guilty of, but they did what Jesus asks of us. They put aside what was comfortable or convenient for themselves to help a brother & sister in need.
James 2:15-16 also hits on this:
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed & lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed & filled” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good it that?
Were we without clothes or food? No, not in the sense of being poor or homeless. But we certainly in need of help. If our community had just said “oh, we’re praying for you” or “let us know if you need anything” but didn’t actually pray for us or didn’t mean that they would help us, well…that’s flattery & lying lips & Proverbs is not short on that topic. They didn’t just offer help, they gave help. They didn’t say the right thing to rid themselves of guilt or check off the box, they gave help. Do you need a bit more on this topic? Check out Matthew 25:31-40, Luke 3:11, & John 13:35. No really. Go read. I can wait.
So, in closing, I have two practical steps for you today:
#1. Be the hands & feet of Jesus. Don’t have lips of flattery or lies. Have lips that speak the truth, feet that follow where needed, & hands that help.
#2. When someone needs help or is in a stressful situation or an overwhelming situation or just has a bad day, don’t offer to help. Just help. Tell them when you will be there, what you will have, & ask what else they need. Don’t say “if you need anything just ask” because here’s the thing: they won’t ask. One, they don’t know if you are being genuine. And two, they probably don’t know what they need. Bring them dinner (don’t ask if they want it, because we humans are stubbornly independent, but tell them you are bringing them dinner), buy some toiletries, tell them you will take their younger kids to play at the park, take them to dinner, stop by to visit, clean their house, do their laundry or dishes, bring them a coffee. Anything. Just do something…enough talk, this world talks enough. Be like Jesus & do.
And then, be to someone else what your community has been to you.
If you are not involved in community & don’t have people who you know will do those things for you, find them, pray for them, be that for someone else. We were not meant to do life alone, so don’t.
Love, Hugs, & Heart Eyes,