As I sat down at one of the round, white folding tables at the Wednesday evening ladies’ meeting, I began to question if I should have shown up at all. I had spent the day caring for my mother who, according to medical experts, only had days left in this world. While my Dad worked and my kids were in school, I would spend many days with mom in case she needed a calming presence. She suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and day by day her lungs hardened making it increasingly difficult to breathe. As one could imagine, this caused her great anxiety, and we never wanted her to go through that alone.
I had witnessed a moment earlier that day that shook me and brought the reality of my mom’s fleeting time to undeniable reality. Afterward, I was emotionally exhausted and spent the thirty-minute drive home crying out to God and then the next thirty minutes before picking up our foster girls from school, pacing in the backyard, pleading for God’s help. I asked Him to heal my mom. To stop the suffering. And to give me strength to endure. I asked tough questions which had no answers. And then I surrendered and felt His peace wash over me.
Whether I was ready or not, I had to get back to living and caring for others who depended on me. Checking out wasn’t an option. So, I had a good reason to stay home from church that night. My husband would have happily taken the girls to church and left me to rest in quiet. However, deep down I knew I needed something more than quiet, so I reluctantly joined them.
That is how I found myself around a round table of six women that evening. Broken on the inside ----- wrestling with the hardness of life and the goodness of God. Yet, as I entered that space, few knew about my inner turmoil. I smiled and made chit-chat and listened intently to the lesson being taught. Then came the table discussion time. As soon as I verbalized my request, the damn of tears broke, and I wept uncontrollably. It embarrassed me because grief creates discomfort. It strips us of all pretense. Raw emotions that groan “it’s not supposed to be this way” are hard to behold, and I had experienced the lack of compassion from others within a church before. To my surprise, our table leader stopped the conversation and led the ladies to pray over me. Before she even finished praying, I felt my heaviness lift and spirit calm. A simple prayer strengthened me in ways I desperately needed to persevere in my pain.
This moment of Christian love showed me the beauty of community I had often longed for. Christian fellowship requires authentic people, brave enough to enter the awkward and messy parts we would rather ignore. The Bible commands us to bear one another’s burdens, to pray for one another, and to grieve with those who grieve. As an independent introvert, I could have easily stayed home and not risked crying in front of women I barely knew. But I desired to be around people who loved God. I needed to hear truth and be revived by it. Most of all, I needed to know someone was praying for my mom and our family as we went through this hard season ---- that we didn’t bear it alone.
God had already prepared this moment for me to step into, and I am thankful for the nudging of the Spirit to push me past fear and cynicism. I am thankful that other women stepped into obedience by being His hands and feet on my behalf that night. Where two or three are gathered in His name, we will be sure to find Him.
Through this, I received a glimpse of community as God intended. That round table filled with women of bold, prayerful confidence and sisterly love softened the hard edges of my grief and led me back toward the light of Christ.
For community had led me into the healing presence of God.
*Photo credit goes to Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash
Terri Prahl is a Christian writer whose passion is to help believers make every effort to love Scripture and apply it to practical living. She blogs about the tension between resting and wrestling in the Christian life at www.terriprahl.com. Terri was recently published as a contributing author for the book Life, Repurposed: Stories of Grace, Hope, and Restored Faith where she shared about struggling to make sense of losing her infant son. When she is not writing, you can find her perusing antique malls, reading, walking, and playing games with her family. Terri lives in the beautiful Ozark Mountains with her husband of 27 years and young adult daughter.