Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I was reading an email from a fellow baby loss mama - our sweet angels went to Heaven on the same day in fact - and she was telling me about the wonderful support she's received from her church. We're 4 weeks in now, and she's still getting meals every night, and for another 2 weeks.... gifts and card still arriving in the mail, 140 at her daughter's service... And as I read, I felt the little comparison monster (I should name him one day, he visits me quite often) rise up in me. I was talking to my husband afterwards about it. While we have received some great support from our church family in the first 2 weeks after Seb passed away, as I've expressed in the previous post, we've found that it has stopped dead now. No more meals, no phonecalls really (not even our pastors, which saddens me a little to be honest). Like it was all there for 2 weeks, then nothing. Now please, I'm not trying to come across as ungrateful, because I am SO grateful for the meals we were given in the 2 weeks, and for the ladies from the church for organising the food for the funeral for me... but... there's always a 'but' isn't there?? (ok maybe I AM being ungrateful)
As I verbalised my thoughts to Greg, I wondered why my friend had so much onging support and we did not feel we have lately (apart from our close friends we go to church with). Was it because she has a bigger church? Admittedly, our church is pretty small, and I know there is only so much people can do. Maybe people are 'giving us space'? Maybe they are just busy too, or dealing with their own crises. Yet the little monster was now turning quite negative and coming up with things people 'should' have been doing. I guess I expected our church family would do more... or they 'should' be doing more?
And then as I washed the dishes, still entertaining my negative thoughts on the matter, the Holy Spirit whispered to me 'maybe she has deeper relationships in her church. Maybe SHE has given more to her church family and so they are giving back too.'
BAM. It comes back to me.
And again I was in awe for just a moment at how God is growing me through this storm.
As I turned my coffee mug over in the soapy water, I was quietly convicted of my own attitude towards those who should be closest to me. How important have the lives of my church family really been to me? Have I reached out to them lately? Have I stopped to ask how they are? Do I know anything that's going on in their lives? Probably not.
In general, I think our relationships with our church family have been pretty stale for a while. We kinda gave up on our small group and threw it in the 'too hard' basket. And maybe it was, but did we really try? We talk mostly to our good friends at church. Only making very 'small talk' to others. And maybe the fact that our church has been through a lot of changes lately contributes to this (transition to a new building and focus)?
But doesn't God call us into fellowship with other believers? Isn't the Great Commission to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27)
Doesn't Hebrews 10:25 tell us to 'not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.'
So am I really following God's Law to love my neighbor and to be in fellowship with my fellow believers? Maybe not as much as I thought.
And so I felt just a little convicted, and it brings me back to the opening scripture I used. The Message translations says it even better!!
James 1:2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Consider it pure joy when I am faced with many trials. Yes, the death of one's dearest little baby is certainly a trial!
But under the pressure, my faith HAS blossomed into the open, and its true colours have been seen. Ah, but in those true colours, there are parts like this tonight that aren't so pretty.
But as God continues to do His Work in me and in my faith, each and every day, He is growing me and maturing me - and I'm going to be well-developed and not lacking anything! Amen to that.
And so, what am I going to do about this little convictions then? Well firstly, there was a little repentence to do. Sorry Lord for complaining and for being judgemental and ungrateful. Sorry for allowing those thoughts to enter my mind. They are NOT of You.
And next, well some wonderful ideas started flooding through my mind. (I'm an Ideas Woman! Not so good at the follow up though!) Maybe Greg and I should give ourselves to ministry of community within our church.... maybe we could start up a short course that we can do with a mixed small group from church (not just our friends!). Kinda like The Alpha Course, or the 40 Days of Purpose we did when we first started coming to this church (was why we started coming actually)?
And maybe there's a time for that down the track.
But I think for now God was showing me that I need to strengthen my relationships in the church - particularly with the older generation of women.
I think I'm going to start going to the KYB (Know Your Bible) group once a fortnight. I went once a few years ago, but our Ladies Ministry is really only the older women, and and just been that way for years (I guess that alone kind of drives a wedge between the 'older' women and the 'younger' women in itself)... Maybe, just maybe God will challenge that notion, and we can grow that too. But for now - I will work on building these relationships with the older women. Learning from them, but also being able to share with them - share about Sebby and my journey, share about my needs in this time - and maybe then, I'll be able to get the support - AND give it too - that I feel I'm lacking.