Pride is a tricky thing, it makes liars out of us. If we don’t ever admit to our stumbles or our failings, our weaknesses and struggles, then how will we know when we’ve found our people?

I limped back to my community this week. It’s been a long year filled with work and travel, unblogged challenges and changes. In the push to finish this book before the baby arrived and roughly seventeen other complications over the past year for us, we haven’t been as present or involved at our church as usual, particularly over the past couple of months.

I’ve been ashamed of this, feeling as if I’ve sacrificed my local lifeΒ to just keep swimming. What use is all this thinking about church and community (or for that matter, any of it – justice, beauty, mercy, grace) if we’re not actively involved in living it out in our real lives?

I needed to sing out ahead of my exhaustion so I did. I’m interrupted a million times in church – three tinies will do that to a woman – but I keep circling back, keep jumping back into worship, refocusing again and again and again. I need to hear my own voice singing promises. And I need to be with the ones I’ve chosen as my people.

We hadn’t been at church since before Christmas. My friends met me with hugs and, of course, they asked, How are you doing?

And my pride wanted to say that I was fine! great! never better! living the dream! blessed and highly favoured! (<—old school Pentecostal)

Instead, it was the craziest thing. I cried every time they innocently asked how I was doing. And I made myself say it, out loud: I’m not fine. I’m not okay. Yes, you’re right, I’m exhausted. I’m just so so so tired. I miss my life sometimes. I could use your prayers.

Forget dignity, I need restoration.

Forget pride, I need the prayers of the people who like us.

Forget anonymity, I need to be known even in these moments of emptiness and need.

Church is one of my safe places now. I never would have imagined saying that a few years ago but it’s true. It’s the place I can go when I am the reluctantly needy one. My friends promised prayers, a few even checked on me during the week here and there.Β I was met with hugs and tenderness, with kindness. It wasn’t much really. Maybe my friends would say it wasn’t a big deal at all, but it was enough for me. I felt seen, I felt like someone who knows me actually cared, I felt their compassion. This is more than enough.

One friend talked to me about arranging for a few meals to brought to us after the baby is born. I wanted to say, No, no, we’re fine, we don’t need anything. I think she saw right through my need to be independent, and she looked me dead in the eye: Sarah, you need to do this. You need to let people bless you. So I said yes, that would be wonderful. Please put me down on the list, yes, bring me food when I have a baby. Why is it so hard to accept help?

And I felt the difference this week, the heaviness hanging over me began to break up above my head, my energy has been slowly returning.

I continue to lean on my community, on the Spirit, and on Scripture. It seems easier to walk away from community for me, easier to be autonomous and anonymous but I find I need the strong three-strand cord more and more.

I longed for this for many years. And yes, our church isn’t perfect and, in fact, it makes me a bit crazy sometimes just like all churches do for all people who show up and put their hearts on the line.

But now, to me, church should be the people I turn toΒ when I am tired, too. My one word for 2015 is Hold Fast, based on Hebrews 10:23, but just a few lines down from my pet focus right now are these words: “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshipping together as some do but spurring each other on…”

I don’t think we need a four-walls-and-a-non-profit-status to qualify as church but these people are mine and I am still learning to admit when I need something from them, too. I know Scripture commands us to confess our sins to one another, in order to be healed, but I am also learning to confess my needs, my struggles, even my true state of being. And restoration waits there, too.

So come all you who are weary and exhausted, all you who have poured out of your depths to fill another: be filled, be restored, receive for once. Wherever you find your church, let them be the ones you turn to when you are tired. Let us pray for one another, let us hold fast, let us confess.

 

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  • gretchen

    I’m sorry life is so very daily right now, Sarah. Sending hugs from WA and a prayer for grace, too.

  • Taylor

    Thank you for your vulnerability. It helps others so very much!!!!

  • Sandy Hay

    i was just listening to a song that says, “let’s go together and lay our heavy loads down. there’s no need to carry all this this weight around.” And that’s exactly what you did. πŸ™‚

  • Jory Peterson

    I love this! I know how hard it is to be vulnerable. The last thing anyone wants is a pity party! I so get it! The other day I wrote something similar for the public to read. I realized how freeing it was and how many people now know to pray for me. Seems like the more prayers, the better. Right? πŸ˜‰ -Jory Micah

  • I needed to read this this morning. I miss my community, my people. We’ve put it off because we are so exhausted, and so busy, and we don’t want to say “we are no OK.’ And we keep thinking we’ll be back when we have something to give. For some who are always used to being involved and always giving, being burned out seems like a burden. But it is OK to be back, even if it’s simply to be vulnerable.

  • Missy

    why is it so hard to admit we aren’t OK? Years ago, when my husband and I were going thru a huge trial in our family, we made it a point to be vulnerable and real, sharing our needs, our heartache, with the express purpose that we wanted others to learn to do the same. We needed, coveted our community’s prayers and hugs and check ins. We couldn’t have survived without it.
    Unfortunately, so many of our friends wanted to put on the “life is good, life is perfect” and would not share their burdens and trials within the community. A few would come to us for prayer but not to others.
    Many years have passed. We still rely on our community when we need prayer support. We couldn’t get by without it. Isn’t that what the body of Christ is all about or supposed to be about?
    We are all broken in some way or another. Its admitting it that is hard. PRIDE. the chief tool of God’s enemy.
    Why do we make things so much harder on ourselves? Trying to be perfect of look like things are good? We are a fallen lot. We need to admit we need help.
    Because the freedom it brings is so releasing. It releases us from thinking that we have to look like we have it all together. I mean really? who has it all together , all of the time?
    thanks for being real again Sarah.

  • Kaitlin

    Thank you for this. When I was pregnant with our second son, I emailed our community group one day and said, “Friends, I need you to come help me clean my house. I’m sorry, I just really need this right now.” And they came, and raked my yard and scrubbed my floor and watched me lay there on the couch, totally pregnant and extremely exhausted.

    Community is the outstretched arm of God to us in all those weakest seasons, and that’s exactly what it should be.

  • Valerie

    I loved this…Thank you

  • Handsfull

    I have 2 friends who have had serious situations in their lives last year, that I was desperate to help with. I could see how much they needed help, and I really wanted to help them – but they just would not let me help them. It was so frustrating! When people keep turning me down, I eventually stop asking… but it hurts. Particularly because I have had a good 10yrs of desperately needing help, but not receiving it. So now I want to help others who need help, because I know what it feels like to need help, ask for help… and be completely ignored. I don’t want anyone else feeling like that – so it’s doubly frustrating when people refuse help! I’m so glad you’re accepting help, Sarah, and I think I might use your friend’s words when you were refusing the help she was trying to give!

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  • Tom Vanderwell

    Well said, Sarah. In response – I shared a few thoughts of my own – http://tomvanderwell.net/2015/01/why-church-should-be-more-like-facebook/

  • Well done and well said, Sarah. Scripture records, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there”; Jesus presence is the true qualifier for a Church. A pastor told our congregation, “I do not want to hear your problems. When we greet, just tell me you are fine.” I don’t attend there anymore. I and your friends appreciate your openness, honesty and vulnerability; and so does our Lord Jesus.

  • Pat

    Sarah, these are your people–and you are theirs. Good on you for being honest with them and then receiving their help and love! Good on you for sharing this with us, who need this kind of community as well!

  • Amanda M.

    I get this. My husband was working two jobs (still is) and finishing up nursing school (done!) and we have to little boys – one with special needs. I showed up on a Wednesday night to help in my youngest’s class as usual and another lady sent me home to sleep. I protested, I cried – but she sent me home for an hour nap – and it was the biggest gift. The same lady saw me dealing with my youngest in the hallway – and I cried again (which I HATED that I did) as she took him to play in the cry room so I could go back to service with my oldest, sitting by himself in the chairs. I hate that I am needed help – that I NEED help – but I am thankful for the ones who see and who give me a break when they can.

  • “Church is one of my safe places now.” – I want this so much. This is what church is supposed to be. It’s encouraging to me that you’ve found it (which means it IS out there somewhere). I hope I’ll be able to find it one of these days too.

    It’s hard to allow myself to be vulnerable after being burned so many times. Thank you for your authenticity. The more people admit that they’re “not OK” the easier it will be for everyone else to admit it.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Sarah, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate this heartfelt post. I wish I could respond at length or communicate tete-a-tete. I’ve been known on blogsites for longwinded responses–ugh. And lucky you, I’ve a busy day ahead and no time to ramble. But I’ll just say I lament so many blogs I have read of late about Christians leaving the Church for whom Christ died. By this I mean simply that they go it alone. And while yes, He bids us worship independently–our whole life can be lived as worship–He longs (and commands) for His body to gather together in His name (and He gives us so much freedom as to which and what kind of local body to attach ourselves), becasue He knows we need it…He pours out His grace on us through other members of His Body. And we, in turn, have so much to give back. I am so deeply touched by how these saints ministered to you in your time of need, and how beautifully, gratefully, and graciously, you received this lavishing. God bless you, Sarah, and I will be praying for the newest tiny today.
    Love
    Lynn

  • Sarah, the best advice I ever have given young mothers (and I say it often) is, “You can’t take care of them unless you take care of you.” Friends love the opportunity to be helpful in meaningful ways, and unless you tell them what you need they are forced to guess. Let them bless you as you have blessed others. Two years ago after my son-in-law lost his job, my priest asked if there was anything she could do to help, and I passed that on to my daughter. “I’ve only been able to pay half this month’s rent, and if she can help pay it, it would be awesome.” Having the rent paid took such a huge burden off her heart, but it wouldn’t have happened without two things: An observant priest who paid attention, and a wife and mother brave enough to acknowledge a need and accept help. – Fawn

  • I love everything you write, Sarah. You’ve been given a gift. But your material about the church is always my favorite. Let’s love our community of believers well, OK?!

  • pastordt

    Please, yes. Please. This is who we’re called to be, what we’re called to do. I am so grateful you’ve found a place where this kind of acceptance/confession/ relinquishment/joy/communion/solace can be found — even when it does drive you crazy. I’m feeling more than ever that those of us who do find our churches to be truly nourishing need to say so. So there is more than one kind of confession going on in this lovely piece, dear Sarah. Thank you.

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  • This is a wonderful post Sarah, so true. I’ve struggled in the past in letting people help me, especially in the last few months where I’ve had to really humble myself. But as you experienced, we need Christian community, and to allow ourselves to be helped by it. Great post, as ever Sarah.

  • Brett FISH Anderson

    Ah, i love this Sarah, Thank You! As someone who has been visiting a number of different church congregations since returning to South Africa [after a 3 year stint in Americaland] back in August, having just written a book on church which i am in the process of self-publishing and loving the church but struggling with ‘the sunday thing’ being seen as the full or only definition of that… just the description of church as ‘my people’ and ‘the people who love me’ feels so powerful and real and enough. Glad you were able to receive and trusting for strength and refreshment especially as you head into new waters…

    Keep on – you are such a huge encouragement, and one of my favourites
    love brett fish

  • Kristin Potler

    Let’s be inventive! Leaves so much room for creativity. Love this and you!

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