Friday, August 19, 2016

It Takes a Village! 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

"You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks." (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

You know, I read this over and over again to myself this morning and it occurred to me that we don't do this much in our culture. At least, not in my experience. How often do you look around you at the amazing people in your life that are selflessly giving and doing God's work and THANK HIM for putting them there? I think that we often take people for granted and I wonder, based on this passage from Paul's second letter to the people of Thessalonica, if we shouldn't be doing the same? Should we be thanking God for each person he has placed in our lives? And shouldn't we also be telling those people what a blessing they are?

Encouragement is a beautiful thing and oftentimes, we need it. I know in my own life there have been many times that I've done what I knew needed doing without any thanks. Honestly, it's the life of a mom many days. You get cups of milk and clean up spilled macaroni; you wash clothes and unload the dishwasher; you make dinner and listen to all the tough things that happened throughout the day for everyone else in your family. And many times? It's not only met without thanks, but with some lovely whining and fighting sprinkled in for good measure.

And that's not to say that we should be doing the things that are in our lives just to get a little praise and recognition, but it also wouldn't hurt to hear that someone noticed what you did and saw the value. As moms, we could be doing this for one another but it feels like, more often than not, we rip each other down further instead. I wonder what our lives would be like if we followed this one simple verse from Paul every day with each other?

Rather than saying, "You know, breast is best" to the mom with a bottle of formula, we could say, "You're doing a great job today."

Instead of saying, "I would never put a paper diaper on my baby," we could be saying "I saw a coupon for that brand in the mail the other day, could you use it?"

The words, "Public school is terrible these days; no child should be subjected to that!" to another mom who's crying about dropping her baby off at school aren't helpful. "You are making the best choices for your child right now. Great job!" would be far better, whether you homeschool, cyber school, or use a public or private school.

I think that as a culture, we are often better at these words from Paul:

"We’re so proud of you; you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches all about you." (2 Thessalonians 1:4)

In my circle at least, I feel like we are pretty decent at lifting up those who have been knocked down. We see a fellow mom who is struggling and we all join together to lift her up. I see it repeatedly on my Facebook feed. Meal trains, Gofundme pages, pictures of notes other moms have gotten from each other, and even flowers sent from one mom to another.

When a person is already down, I think sometimes it's easier to see them there. Why? I don't know the answer, but maybe it's because they stand out more down there. Why do we have to let them get to that position before we lift them up? Why can't we walk alongside one another so that we know when down is coming and can help carry the burden? Wouldn't that be great?

But in our social media filled world, I guess it's actually more difficult. We think we know everything there is to know about our friends and acquaintances because we see pictures and statuses and emojis of all kinds coming off their pages. We see the articles they share and the hundred Pinterest posts they've shared and we're sure they have it all together. They don't need us. In fact, maybe it's us that need them but we can't say that because we have to be independent! We can't NEED anyone! We need to be able to function on our own! We are women! We have this! Isn't that what society is teaching us? Aren't those the very thoughts that are pushed into our minds every single day? That weakness is unacceptable? That needing others is just another sign of weakness?

But it's all a lie! We were built to do life in community! Paul talks about living as a body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. He talks about how each body is made up of many different parts and that each part relies on the other parts for various things. If you haven't read it recently (or ever), I highly suggest you turn there and take a look. He does an amazing job of explaining all of this.

Working together in our communities, let's see what Paul says we should remember as we go through the rough stuff as a united front:

"All this trouble is a clear sign that God has decided to make you fit for the kingdom. You’re suffering now, but justice is on the way. When the Master Jesus appears out of heaven in a blaze of fire with his strong angels, he’ll even up the score by settling accounts with those who gave you such a bad time. His coming will be the break we’ve been waiting for. Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Message will pay for what they’ve done. Eternal exile from the presence of the Master and his splendid power is their sentence. But on that very same day when he comes, he will be exalted by his followers and celebrated by all who believe—and all because you believed what we told you." (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

The fact of the matter is that we live in an imperfect and sin-filled world. Trouble is going to happen. This isn't heaven. But rather than falling down and suffering alone, we should be working together in community with one another and seeing what we can learn through the suffering. God always uses the evil for good in some way. Oftentimes, he will use it to draw you closer to Him. He will develop your character through it. He will build endurance in you through it. Paul actually talks about this in another of his letters elsewhere in the Bible. Romans 5:4 says this:

"And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation."

So push through the tough stuff, push through your suffering and challenges because God has this. He will take care of it for you. It's not your job to hand out justice. He will do it for you. Just lean into Him and allow your community to help you through it. My BFF actually refers to her community as her village. As in "it takes a village to raise a child?" She calls us all her village and leans in when she needs help. I love that she demonstrates this for those of us in that village.

Do you have a village? Who is in it? If you don't have one, you should. Who can you ask to join you in your village? I'd suggest starting with family members and close friends. Work your way out if you need to. Some villages can have different levels. Maybe you only trust really close friends to babysit so you only ask them. That's okay. The outer level can handle things like meals and prayers, right? Let's get better at this one. Let's get better at banding together as moms in our communities and leaning into one another. It would make our burdens so much lighter!

As you work to build your village, find people that can fill the following jobs: laughter, encouragement, a listening ear, prayer, grace for where you are, physical labor, back-up on the tough days, and Godly advice for the unknown. I don't know how to describe these better than this, but when you find the person that fits, you'll know so long as you are asking God to guide you to them! Some people may fill multiple rolls. I have one friend who is great to get me laughing and to lift me up. Another is wonderful for offering me Biblically sound advice. Still another encourages me, listens to me, and prays for me. I depend on this village of ladies. I pray you find your own village too because life is tougher without it!

I want to end with these words of prayer from Paul because they are my honest and heart-felt prayers for all of us:

"Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely." (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

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