Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing excerpts like this one from Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement. We’re excited to read through a few chapters, complete challenges, and experience our first (in)courage book alongside you! Each Tuesday we will share part of a chapter, as well as challenges we will all aim to complete by Friday; and each Thursday at noon (12:00 pm CST), we’ll broadcast a Facebook Live video with the author of that week’s chapter. For more information, click here.
We are just so thankful that each of you are a part of this community. Keep an eye on our Instagram today for something super special, from us to you, just because we love you!
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
A Safe Harbor
Raising young children can be a blur, can’t it? So you might not even notice when your children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
It was right around that time for our second born when my husband accepted a job that would move us, once again, to a city of strangers. I’ll never forget the day we told our children, then, at the end of kindergarten, second, and fourth grades. We were a puddle of tears huddled in our den, believing this was a trusting-the-Lord, path-making opportunity once again.
The day came for our family to close that chapter. With all our earthly possessions loaded on a truck, I’ll never forget my husband’s prophetic words. They would prove to be a haunt over the next ten years: “When all is said and done, what if we never find community like this again?”
(Spoiler: We wouldn’t.)
I’m an optimist and a bright-side-seer, and I couldn’t even entertain that possibility. Moving to a new place was an adventure! The place we were headed was beautiful, and I embraced it with arms wide open.
I took to heart the wisdom offered by a couple who had moved to our previous hometown right before we left:
“Don’t look for a duplicate of the church you’re leaving. If you’re searching for an exact copy, you’ll only find disappointment. Instead, look for a healthy church with sound doctrine. Start fresh and don’t try to pick up where you left off.”
We knew we found the right church the first week we attended it, though we visited a few more to be sure. Week after week the pastor seemed to be inside our heads and hearts, his messages speaking exactly to our circumstance. It was uncanny. God was so tender in our transition.
Our children assimilated quickly to their new school, faster than we would have dared hoped. My husband’s job started off well. I volunteered at school as much as I could and joined a community Bible study. We attended an Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) with people around our same stage in life.
We did all the things we had always done before to meet people and cultivate relationships. We showed love and exercised the gift of hospitality, by inviting people into our home and hosting dinners.
A year passed. One in middle school now. Two, three, then four years. The only year I’ll have one each in elementary, middle, and high school. Five more years. Our first licensed driver! Six years. How is my baby a 7th grader?! Seven years. How can he be driving already? How can she be a senior?!!
Those years passed slowly and quickly simultaneously; time is tricky that way.
And all along community eluded us, no matter how hard we chased it or how much we prayed.
It is interesting and important to note we weren’t without friends altogether. But communal depth never took root; we weren’t doing life together. We loved “our” people in a general sense, but intimacy was lacking.
It would be eight years into our move, when an 18-year-old sitting in my kitchen asked a simple question, that I would finally see the forest and not just trees–
“Mama D, why do you talk to us? I mean, my mom listens to me and all, but you t a l k with us. You give us so much time . . .” and her voice trailed in earnest anticipation for my answer.
A light bulb went on.
The veil was lifted and I was able to see what I had been missing for too many years: I did have community! It just hadn’t looked like what I had expected. What I almost missed was the answer to a 20-year-old prayer:
Our home had become a refuge and safe harbor with gravitational pull. There’s no doubt our children felt loved and wanted, but that extended to their friends as well. It is no small thing for teenagers to want to spend time with grown-ups, to linger around the dinner table and tell you things they might not have shared with their own parents. To ask questions and to want to hear your answers.
I hadn’t been able to gain traction in a peer community, so I had the time and energy to invest in the kids under our roof. Do you see it?
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:16-17)
It’s so clear to me now, I don’t know how I could have wrestled against it for so long. In the absence of the community I thought I wanted, I was free to invest in and love on a group of teenagers.
They might not have been my first choice for community, but it was never about me anyway, was it? I had the remarkable privilege of God appointing me to bear lasting fruit. Without me even needing to understand, He had invited me to an incredible, Holy work, and in the process I had graciously received favor in answer to my prayers.
Our home, a refuge.
- Are there people you’ve been missing while you’ve been wishing for your community to look a certain way? Invite the Lord to show you what He has for you in the midst of your current circumstance, for your good, His glory, and the benefit of others.
- Note three ways you can demonstrate love to your people today simply through the gift of your presence – no fancy meals or elaborate plans. Simply be with the people God has put in your life.
Is anything hindering or undermining your efforts to find community?