Not long ago, Jeff and I were presenting our latest research to the annual convention of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) and grabbed the opportunity to have dinner with another author couple. After a delicious meal, we continued to sit there, talking, laughing, and sharing life. When we finally looked at our watches, we realized we had been sitting at that table for over four hours!
Have you ever been so starved for something, that when you finally get it, you feel like you’ve just consumed a luxurious feast? Well, that wonderful four-hour dinner showed me just how hungry I had been for community.
Any of us can find ourselves in a season where we just don’t have regular fellowship with others – whether because of a busy schedule or simply because we’ve gotten out of the habit. Sure, we may always be around people . . . but “being in proximity to others” isn’t the same thing as “meaningful fellowship.” For me, my travel schedule often keeps me from attending routine gatherings like weekly bible studies or school meetings where I see other moms. And since many of my speaking engagements happen on weekends, Jeff and I frequently find ourselves turning down Saturday night dinner invitations from friends. Bottom line? Unless I intentionally seek community, I miss out on it.
Your schedule may be different from mine, but do you ever find yourself in similar circumstances? Wanting people to “do life with,” but then rushing about your day? Perhaps you would love time with friends, but you realize it has been many weeks or months since that has happened? Pay attention to that realization, that longing; I think it is God’s prompting for us to do something about it! We were not made to do life alone. We were made live in community with others, and when we do, all the science shows that our mental, emotional, and spiritual health becomes better. This is important for us and is even more important for our kids!
But as my example illustrates, it is all too easy to go without time with friends – and not even realize we are deprived of something we truly need! It requires making a decision and a purposeful effort – especially at the outset when we are setting up a pattern and a schedule to be together. Whether we have moved to a new city, find ourselves in a different season of life than our friends, or simply are entrenched in an insanely busy project at work, at some point we will all have to decide whether we want community badly enough to work for it.
Thankfully, a little effort will go a long way. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started: