As Christians, we love to be there for each other’s monumental moments, and we fully embrace Romans 12:15. Congregations all over our country are having “Senior Sunday” to honor their congregation’s graduating seniors. Just this past week I was blessed to gather with my sisters in Christ to celebrate the wedding of one of our own. When one of us experiences a loss or is diagnosed with a serious illness we immediately rush to their aid with cards, phone calls, and meals (us Christian ladies LOVE to cook, food makes everything better!). We do an exceptional job of being there for each other at these pivotal moments, at first. In the days and weeks surrounding a wedding, a birth, a graduation, a diagnosis or a death we flock to our brethren. But then…the cards, the phone calls, the visits, the meals…they get farther and farther apart…until they stop all together.
I’ll never forget visiting with my sweet grandma several months after my grandfather passed away. They had been married for 62 years, and even though he had been sick his loss was very hard on all of us (and still is at times). She talked about the days and weeks immediately following his passing, and the outpouring of love and concern she received from her family and brethren. The irony was that in some ways those first few days and weeks were not nearly as difficult for her as the months after. His loss, the emptiness of the home they shared together that she eventually had to sell, the loss of their home, getting rid of his possessions, those things didn’t come until later, and by later, a lot of the support had stopped. There was one sister in particular who continued to send her cards on a regular basis, and those cards meant the world to my grandmother and helped her through her mourning.
When a young person that we have watched grow up is preparing for their high school graduation we beam with pride. We buy them cards, encouraging books, gift cards and items for their dorm room. We tell them how proud we are, how confident we are that they will make a tremendous impact on the world and bring glory to God, and then we merrily pat them on their back and send them on their way. When they are actually at college, making adult decisions for the first time, their support system is back in their hometown.
When a young adult begins a serious relationship we smile and are so happy for them. We are very cautious though, because we certainly don’t need to overstep our bounds. We must be careful not to reach out and mentor this young couple as they pursue a serious relationship for the first time, become engaged and start a family, because their private lives are really none of our business. Then when this couple encounters their first difficulties (because they will) all they have to fall back on are their brethren’s perfect family Sunday morning faces, and they feel alone and isolated.
When one of our brethren are diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer, we are very encouraging, concerned and attentive. Then as they progress through treatments for months, or even years, we move on with our lives, often forgetting that their life is still drastically changed until we see them at the next worship service. We love them, we care, yet without realizing it we have left them alone to deal.
Sisters, I understand that long-term emotional support can be exhausting. I get that it takes a much deeper emotional investment, and much more effort on our part, and that’s daunting. Yet the rewards are innumerable. If we embrace this mentality with our brethren we will have love, support and encouragement that we can’t even fathom right now. Time and again the church is described as a family in Scripture. When your mother is sick, you invest longterm. When your daughter is married, you ensure to remain an emotional support. When your child is in college you check on them on a regular basis. These actions, these relationships are what define us as a family.
What would the church look like if we were that invested in each other? I understand that no one person can be there for everyone all the time. Yet what if we communicated and worked together as a body a little bit better? What if we all continued to reach out when these life-altering situations came about, but then we took it a little bit farther. What if we visited with each other, and made sure that there was at least one lady for each individual going through a life change who was dedicated to long-term encouragement?
What if there was a specific lady for each of your graduating seniors who committed to be in regular contact and send regular encouragement for their entire freshman year? It’s not difficult to send a card or an e-mail or make a phone call once a week. If possible, even send an occasional gift card. A $10 McDonalds gift card goes a long way when you are a poor college student!
What if there was a specific lady for every new widow/widower committed to sending encouragement on a regular basis for the first year after the passing of a spouse? Invite them to eat with your family, or take them out to lunch a few times each month. Take your children to their house to visit, and have the kids color them pictures. Send them a card once a month to let them know that they aren’t alone, and they aren’t forgotten.
What if there was a couple dedicated to mentoring each engaged/newly married couple for at least the first year of their marriage? One of the most rewarding things I have ever done was invite a dear sister who was newly engaged into our home. She had little experience in a Christian family with both a mother and a father present, so Jonathan and I invited her to live with us for 2-3 weeks. She helped me cook and clean, provided companionship and adult conversation, and she had the opportunity to experience what marriage and motherhood is really like on a daily basis. You don’t have to go that extreme, but invite the couple into your home for meals a few times a month. Invite them to your kiddo’s concerts or sporting activities so they can experience family life. Visit with them about the biblical roles of husbands/wives and mothers/fathers. Visit with them about their spiritual relationship and encourage them to pray and study together on a daily basis.
What would the family of Christ look like if we embraced this mentality? Sisters, we do a phenomenal job of reaching out when there is an immediate need, but I think we can do better. This month, I challenge you to personally resolve to reach out to someone undergoing a major life-change on a regular basis for an extended period of time. I challenge you to meet with the other ladies of your congregation and put together a game-plan for ensuring that we are there for our brethren, not just in the face of crisis or immediate change, but in the days beyond. In the words of Paul, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity,” I Timothy 5:1-2. Let’s truly be a family in the times that we need it most, in the days beyond.