I think this quote can apply in a spiritual way to a church body that has endured for years. There are mutual scars, mutual battle, mutual loss, mutual grace that binds us deep down. It also makes every loss and leaving more painful.
Last Monday, I shared an article about my happy and sad thoughts concerning Mother’s Day. Not only was it one of the most well received articles I’ve ever written, but the outpouring of love, prayer, support, and encouragement from other women astounded me. To all of you who are praying for me and my husband, thank you! To all of you who took time to read my article and share it, thank you! To all of you who found it encouraging, I’m humbled and grateful I was able to help you. It has not been an easy road to walk. It has taken years for me to be at peace with where I’m at in my life. God has shown Himself trustworthy through it all. He is very longsuffering with me as I try to leave this world behind and live by faith instead of sight.
As a plethora of notes poured down around me last week, I realized that article was the first time many of my friends and family have heard me talk about not having children. I realized how much I needed their encouragement and support. I realized I only received it when I shared my trials and struggles.
Dear brothers and sisters, fellow believers, learn from my experience. Share your burdens with one another. Do not hide away in a pew watching others smile, laugh, and cry, wishing and wanting someone to smile, laugh, and cry with you.
The lesson I learned, yet again, from my Mother’s Day experience, was that I can’t expect people to understand me via osmosis. I must open myself up, share myself, and talk with other people. Scary thought. I must do the hard work of awkwardness, stilted conversation, and even move far outside my comfort zone, to get help. Help doesn’t come by hiding. Help comes by reaching out.
We live in a culture that has taken self-actualization to a destructive level. We think it’s all about us. That if I’m an introvert, you extroverts need to understand me. If you don’t make me happy, I get to abandon you. If my dreams don’t match up with yours, I’m outta here. Beware, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, the lies of the world. You are not at church to be served, but to serve. You are not here to wait for others to come talk with you, but to go talk to them. We all have hopes and dreams. We all have a hard time talking to others. Honestly, I’d rather sit in a corner and write than be with people. But that’s not good for me.
Life, the Christian life, is not about fulfilling your dreams here on earth. It is about becoming more Christ-like here on earth. This is not going to be easy. It is not going to be fun or even that happy. Why? Because the longer you walk with Christ the more aware of your own sin you become. It’s not pretty. The longer you walk with Christ, the less you are like this world. You give up your dreams for Christ’s sake. The world thinks that’s dumb. It’s not pretty. The longer you walk with Christ, the more you seek to serve your local church. The world thinks it’s a waste of time to spend your life quietly serving your church. It’s not pretty.
I’m preaching to myself here. I’m gently begging and pleading, praying and trusting that you will be encouraged to yet again go into the battle against yourself. You’re happiness and comfort aren’t what is important in this life. The sooner you learn this the better you will be at serving. Don’t give into the temptation of waiting to be served, go out and serve. Don’t wait for a friend to magically appear. Go be a friend. If you see others who are popular and you envy them . . . try getting to know them. You may find that they get nervous every Sunday cause they have to talk to people. You may find that that popular person has just as many scars as you do.
Just a word of caution: I’m not suggesting we all start gossiping. Sharing your sin can be just as much gossip as sharing the sins of others. It can be just as addictive, like a psychological cutting of yourself instead of a physical. I’m also not negating the benefit of understanding the difference between how introverts and extroverts communicate. This can be very helpful. What I am saying is that we need to stop waiting around for friends to understand us. We need to go be an understanding friend. The world is full of lies and selfishness that we must battle every day. My recent experience with sharing a very personal struggle has only solidified in my mind how important it is that we reach out to one another, and not wait for others to reach out to us.
Go to your local church this Sunday, and instead of focusing on all the ways no one is paying attention to you, go pay attention to someone else. Invite someone from your church over, or out for coffee. Schedule regular get-togethers. If you take your eyes off yourself, and focus on your family, your real family, you will find yourself blessed and encouraged. How do I know? Well I once considered myself on the fringe of my church, sorely misunderstood. What that really was was selfishness. Now, I have, by God’s grace alone, been changed in my attitude and I seek to serve my church like I was commanded to. I’ve been blessed beyond belief. I haven’t made lots of money. I haven’t suddenly found myself in the upper circles of society. I have had to give up on some very clung to dreams. But in all this, I have found Christ to be sufficient and my local church to be the dearest of families.
God is good.
46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12: 46-50