It’s been nine months since we said goodbye to our church family. And seven months since we started the school year in this new place.
The house is unpacked.
We’ve settled into a routine.
We’ve learned our way around the new church and school.
And we’ve met so many new people.
In many ways, the transition into this new life we’re living is behind us. And it feels really good. But the one way in which we still feel unsettled is that, for the most part, we lack community in this new place as a couple and as a family.
Please don’t misunderstand me.
Our new church family is amazing. We have felt so welcomed, incredibly affirmed, and very much supported by everyone we’ve met. And many people have gone out of their way to make us feel at home. But let’s be realistic. We simply can’t make up for the friendships we built over 11 years in the span of a few months. It’s not going to happen that way, and we’ve come to accept that.
Even in the midst of this void, though, God has been so good to bless us with fresh eyes. Because in the absence of community, we’ve come to understand, from a different perspective, the importance of it.
When we arrived at our new church in July, we hit the ground running. We attended 18 “Meet and Greets” over the span of six weeks, and we met countless people. On several of those occasions, we spent time with groups of people who fit into the older empty-nester and elderly categories. Some of them have been attending our church since the day its doors opened. And as we listened to their stories about why this church means so much to them, it always came back to one thing.
They shared stories of how their Sunday School classes have been with them through it all. Raising children. Job changes. Job losses. Marital challenges. Divorce. Sickness. Deaths of spouses. And in some cases, even deaths of children.
In one case, a woman shared how, at that very moment, her Sunday School class was walking with her through the last few months of her husband’s life. She talked about the care and concern that her church family had for her. How they took shifts sitting with her husband so that she could attend church each Sunday. She shared how they provided meals and helping hands so that she could keep up with daily living while caring for her dying husband at the same time. And she shared how they supported her emotionally and physically with their presence and their prayers.
As we listened to her story and to the stories of so many others, the tears rolled down my face. Not because I was sad, but because I was touched. The stories were beautiful. And in a season where we were missing our community, these stories served as powerful reminders of the important role community plays in our lives.
They instilled in me a sense of resolve to invest in new relationships.
To spend time with people.
To be open. And transparent. And real.
To look for opportunities to serve alongside the members of our new church family.
To take time to get to know others in a deeper way.
And to open my heart and mind to sharing our life with the new people in our lives.
It’s going to take time. And effort. But if we make building community a priority for our family, it will happen in an organic and authentic way. We will be blessed with deep and meaningful relationships. And hopefully, we will have countless opportunities to bless others as we walk this journey together.
Who’s in your community today? Consider taking a moment to thank God for those people. And if you don’t have community today, how might you begin to build it?