I have a friend whose children have an uncanny ability to break bones only when she is out of state. Apparently they like to simultaneously scare their parents and traumatize the unfortunate grandparent left in charge.
At least that is what we are all starting to think.
I was at work recently when my husband called to report that this friend’s five-year-old son had fallen from a bounce house at church. Based on the obvious deformity, his arm was definitely broken. And, as was the case when her daughter broke her arm a while back, my poor friend was one thousand miles away when it happened.
I knew the grandfather in charge still had three other children to manage and was unfamiliar with the city. And I was frustrated to be shackled to work and unable to help.
My husband described how the little boy was screaming in pain and my heart squeezed at the thought of this sweet child terrified and hurting. But he reassured me that another close friend was cuddling him while they helped grandpa determine where to seek medical care.
Ultimately the decision was made to call an ambulance and request to be taken to the emergency department where I was working. They reasoned that since this hospital was outside the city, it would be easier for the grandfather to navigate there and back. Plus they wanted a familiar face to help with medical decisions and comfort the child in such a scary situation.
The ambulance arrived at the hospital and the usual flurry of emergency department activity ensued.* There was pain to manage and X-Rays to be ordered and treatment plans to explain and a very distraught grandfather to reassure. There were bones to be set and parents to be called to keep informed of the progress. There were infinite cuddles and freezer pops and tears wiped over and over.
And through it all, something significant stood out to me:
I love my church family.
I can’t imagine being thousands of miles away from my child in an emergency situation. But if I were, I would want it to look like this:
- A church family who helped guide my father-in-law on where to seek medical care from a trusted source.
- A dear friend to snuggle my injured child as they awaited the ambulance so the grandparent could make important decisions.
- A close friend working at the hospital to care for my son and reassure my father-in-law.
- Friends who dropped what they were doing to get my son’s older sister to the hospital.
- A kind friend who drove out to the hospital to bring an extra vehicle.
- A dear family to lovingly care for my other children while grandpa was tied up at the hospital.
- A thoughtful friend who had a meal waiting back at home.
- Countless brothers and sisters in the faith praying for my child and everyone involved.
I witnessed the body of Christ completely envelop this family. And it was totally unprofessional but I got a little misty just thinking about it.
I can’t help but be moved when I see the body in action like this.
Oh friends, God did not intend for us to be alone in this world. And THIS is the system he designed for us – this is the church – a group of people who love each other in tangible ways and live out their faith in service to each other and the community around them.
When I watch the body mobilize, it is just as beautiful as the most mystifying sunset or intricate flower or majestic mountain. Maybe even more so. Because it is an act of the will to lay down your life in big ways and small for another person.
You love as well as you are willing to be inconvenienced. ~Ann Voskamp
I am sure that our church would have compassionately helped anyone who was hurt in our midst. But what made the experience so beautiful was that we were not strangers tending to an injured child. We were familiar faces. Trusted friends. We were his people. And that familiarity brought him security no kind stranger ever could.
I often hear folks grumble that they don’t feel connected at their church or in their community. Heck, I am sure some people don’t feel connected at our church. And for as moving as it is to experience a community of believers functioning as family, it is just as frustrating to feel the absence of these relationships. Because God created us to thrive in community, not wither in isolation.
But here is the rub, relationships don’t happen in a vacuum. They don’t happen simply by attending church. They don’t happen passively. And they don’t happen quickly. Relationships are forged over time by intentionally investing in the community of believers where God has placed you.
“It is impossible to love deeply without sacrifice.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Maybe that looks like joining a small group or a Bible study. Maybe it looks like serving in a ministry at church. Maybe it looks like taking the initiative to introduce yourself at the next event. Maybe it looks like reaching out and inviting others into your home for a meal or a cup of coffee.
Regardless of whether your church offers infinite opportunities to connect or none, it requires some personal effort to move beyond just meeting people and actually get to know them.
I urge you to put forth this effort.
Because when a church is full of believers committed to doing the hard work of building relationships, the result is otherworldly. It looks like a group of people who mobilize to care for one of their own as in the case of this child. It looks like a community who knows each other and ministers to each other and says to one another, “You are my family and I will do anything for you.”
And it is beautiful.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
* I am vigilant about protecting patient privacy for strangers and friends alike. The story and images in this post were shared with full permission and encouragement of the parents involved.