Did I Miss It?

It's been a tough week. You know, one of those weeks where you know you have nothing to offer it, to solve the problems it holds, and you're extremely grateful to have Abba to listen to your prayers, hear, and respond.

As I was pressing into Abba Daddy this morning, I was reminded of one of the most beautiful relationship experiences I've ever had. It wasn't with my husband or kids; it wasn't even directly with God (though He was definitely there). It was during a moment of corporate praise and worship. I had my arms lifted high to heaven, praising God and giving Him glory.

My heart posture and the Spirit's leading was to keep my arms raised, worshipping and giving back to God all the praise, glory, honor and worship that God deserves. But my arms were simply weak and tired. My spirit was willing, but my arms--not so much. They were screaming at me in pain!

There was this moment when I knew my arms couldn't stay up another moment physically, but spiritually I wanted to keep them there all night. That's when it happened.

The most beautiful relationship moment I've experienced (outside of my relationship with God).

Other women surrounded me and lifted their arms and mine too!

Borrowed. Original source not known.

My arms alone couldn't bear to stay up alone, but with two or three of us raising our hands together, we shared the physical weight of our burdens. All of us were able to continue to praise with our hands lifted high!

This is a perfect picture of God's design for the Christian life. Together, worshipping and praising, sharing the burden. But I get it wrong too much of the time.

It's easy to pause during worship and look to see whose arms are beginning to droop and to step in beside her. It's not as easy to check in on these amazing women during the week to see whose heart and stress levels are beginning to sink. We miss so many opportunities to do what Jesus said really mattered:

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT)

I cannot lead the life that Jesus modeled and called me to without relationships with others. I'll go even one step beyond this:

I am not living the way God called me to if I'm not in vulnerable, transparent real relationship with God AND others.

What does this look like?

Vulnerable vs. Transparent
When I was younger, I stole a pack of gum from a store. I never got caught. But I've known my whole life that it was wrong. It bugs me. When I share honestly about who I have been, what I've done (all in the past tense), I am being vulnerable.

This is a great place to start, especially in Christian community that believes in forgiveness, grace, mercy. But it's not the end all.

This week I'm struggling with sad thoughts and hard events. I know that my sadness is typical, but I'm also painfully aware that as someone with major depression, it can easily swing from typical to overwhelming, heavy thoughts quickly. Transparency is speaking this reality to another person. Sharing with my dear friend that I know if I can faithfully carry out a couple of simple activities of daily living every single day, I will make it through and be okay.

Being vulnerable AND transparent together takes it to a whole new level. It's a community of people in relationship who know who I've been, what I've done, how I've struggled as well as where I am right now. In that community, because I've been vulnerable and transparent I can stand confident that my community is looking around, in the same way I've done during worship, to see whose arms are beginning to droop.

It calls me to do the same for others.

But I mess it up all the time.

I forget to look around, to check in on those I worship beside on Sunday, those I serve with in our neighborhood to see whose arms are beginning to droop.

I miss it.

I miss them.

This week, I've been truly blessed by many who have stepped up to the plate when I reached out for help, love, prayer, and support. It wasn't until this morning that I really felt like my arms were beginning to droop. I knew on Tuesday, however, that it was likely to happen. I reached out to my community. I asked them to watch me.

But many of my dearest ones can't do this yet. They may never experience enough hope and trust to reach out. So we must "love our neighbors as ourselves" by regularly checking on them. It's called intentionality. This, this is how we make sure we don't miss it when their arms (their lives) start to get weary and droop.

This is achieved by doing stuff outside the walls and structure of church and Bible study. It's sharing meals, grabbing coffee together, helping with yard work, watching each others' kids' sports teams play. It's that text in the early morning to encourage them when the Spirit leads or when they've shared that they have a big (stressful, exciting, long) day coming up.

This comes pretty naturally to some people. Not so much for the majority of people, I'd venture.

So how can I tell if I know my community well enough to notice?

You're probably on the right path if you know their kids' names, sports, and biggest challenges (assuming they're parents). You're developing this kind of "love your neighbor" relationship when you know their biggest fear and favorite food. You're experiencing this kind of community when you share meals and know that their spouse is lactose-intolerant and gluten-sensitive (and probably wondered...so what DO they eat?).

This kind of relationship doesn't require me to know the right thing to say or do at all times. It means I may come up to them, without other intelligent words to offer and simply say, "I heard. How are you?" It does mean that you approach them in the tough times even if you don't know what to say. I've found many times that it's easier to forgive the person who pursued a conversation that turned awkward than to forgive the person who ran away completely.

Jesus invited his followers, his FRIENDS (John 15:15), to do life with Him and with each other. They lived, worked, and ate together. I mess this kind of living up all the time. But He calls me higher.

So...today, will you miss it? Or will you have been living in the kind of relationships and community that Jesus calls us to? How will you begin to build those real relationships? I'd love to know!


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