Reaching Out: Difficult But Necessary
My work as a social worker and a counselor for more than seven years has helped me to understand a thing or two about relationships, especially after numerous hours of counseling dysfunctional marriages and families. Becoming a Navy spouse has also helped me learn a lot about relationships. I cannot say that I am an expert on relationships but I can share some insights from my experiences over the years.
First: relationships – whether dating, marriage, family or friendships – take work and effort in order to keep them strong and intimate. My husband David and I were apart more than together in our first year of marriage. Three months after our twins Ajay and Brad were born (now both 11 years old), my husband was deployed on back-to-back tours in the Persian Gulf on a ship. Through that, David and I learned we need to put in the effort to communicate with one another often despite our lack of energy and time. Along with deployments, another thing about military life is that we had to move often. In our 13 years of marriage, we have moved six times within the U.S. and also overseas. I had only lived in California before marriage, so moving and adjusting to a brand new place every two years was hard to say the least. I also had difficulty in making new friends and getting to know them each time we moved.
Each time however, God was gracious and placed some amazing people in my life wherever we moved. But as hard as it was to constantly make new friends and build those relationships, it was even harder to say goodbye only after a year or two. I know many military spouses would agree with me on this. Many times, I told myself that I would not get to know anyone or get close to anyone because we would have to move again. It would have been easier to not have made friends and spared myself the hurt of separation, but I am so grateful that I took the time and effort to do so. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for these people that God had sovereignly placed in my life. I feel that this is important in the church as well. Sometimes, it’s so easy to take how we see each other every week for granted and be complacent about our relationships. But we need to continue to work hard and build relationships in the church as long as it is called today.
Second: relationships are about doing life together and investing in others. As a social worker and counselor, I used to think that building and maintaining a relationship was all about effective communication. I still believe that but now also believe it is about experiencing life together, especially in this fast-paced and transient society. We have a completely different culture and society today than what I grew up in. People do not have time for an hour-long counseling session or other long conversation. If they do, it might occur via a FaceTime or other conference call. I know for some ladies, this is hard to get used to because they enjoy the one-on-one time together. That said, I think it is great that we can still directly communicate with each other in less traditional ways through social media and technology. Doing life together is about connections with one another through the day or week in whatever way is feasible.
People are busy and on-the-move, so we need to be creative with our time. If you cannot go out for coffee due to the kids’ schedules, then invite them over to the house for coffee. Some of the younger ladies just want to hang out and do life together. Some of them also want to know what it is like to be a stay-at-home mom or what marriage is like. They don’t mind hanging out and chatting while you prep dinner, walk the dog or take care of the kids. This is what I believe organic mentoring is: sharing life experiences, helping ladies through life and coming along side of them. This is a perfect opportunity for more mature ladies to mentor and invest in younger ladies as instructed in Titus 2:3-4: to train the younger ladies to love their husbands and their children through living and sharing life together.
(Mentoring is something that Women’s Winistry is very passionate about. If you are interested, please contact the leadership team for Women’s Ministry.)
Third: relationships are about connections with one another. The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines a relationship as “the way in which two or more people or things are connected.” When I first came to ABC, I fell in love with the people but it was hard to get to know the ladies. I started to connect with some of the ladies and suggested we hang out. It started with a couple of us hanging out after church to do nails, then crochet, or just have lunch. To my surprise, the ladies loved getting together with each other but did not think to do this with other women. They just thought the women were too busy with their families and didn’t want to bother them. So I prayed to the Lord about what I could do for Him in Virginia and how He could use me here.
Then last year, Rose asked me if I would be willing to help run events for Women’s Ministry to get the women together and to connect with one another. I did not want the commitment but I decided if this is what the Lord wants me to do while I’m in Virginia, then I was willing. At first, I thought how am I glorifying God with just planning events? I first thought event planning was “frivolous” and not very “spiritual,” but I realized that it was a necessary means for women to get together, connect with one another and build relationships. It’s been great to see women enjoy themselves at these monthly events and meet other ladies that they normally would not otherwise at church. Planning these events have been really fun for me but also a way for me to give back to ABC and to the Lord.
Fourth: relationships are risky. At our women’s retreat this last February, speaker Tracie Nall spoke about how we can remove our masks and hidden identities, then put on the identity that God has given us – that we are a Child of God and that we are Loved. It is important in a relationship and also in the church to remove our masks and hidden identities that we are not willing to let down for whatever reasons. It’s too hard to get to know someone when we are not who we are or who God made us to be. We need to be open and real with each other or the relationship isn’t authentic. There are a lot of hurt and depressed people in the church that feel they cannot be real for fear of judgement. There are also misconceptions over what they are “supposed” to be like as a Christian.
However, we all know that people are not perfect and neither are Christians. That’s why we need Christ, His forgiveness and His grace. We are all in the same boat. No one is better than another person. Some people may perceive that but we need to remove those misconceptions in the church. If people can’t be real at church, where can they find help? After almost three years in Virginia, I have gotten to know some people and I had no idea some of the hurts and pains they are going through because they look happy, well-adjusted and secure on the outside. And the only reason I knew was because I had gotten to know them and started to build a relationship with them. We as a church and as individuals need to convey the message that it is okay to be yourself and it is safe to share with one another without fear of judgment.
How does building relationships affect the church? It’s like breaking down one barrier at a time. I’m not saying that we need to get to know EVERYONE or build relationships with EVERYONE at the church. I am saying we should start with one individual at a time and hopefully cause a domino effect. At our last make up retreat seminar with Tracie Nall, we talked about what the women’s ministry could do? Well, first of all, we need to start with ourselves. We need to make that first move and not wait for someone else to reach out to someone.
Sometimes, friendships form and just happens which is so great. Other times, you really need to be intentional and seek people out. Since moving to the East Coast, it has been so easy to not go out and just stay home instead because the weather is so bad and unpredictable. In my second year here, I made more of an effort to be more intentional to meet people, ask them out or invite them over. If not, I would have just been happy to be at home, stay warm and watch my Korean dramas. But I know that is not what the Lord wants. He wants me to give of myself for the sake of the church and His people.
Will you join me and pray for God to impress people in your heart that you can minister to or reach out to in the church? Will you pray for someone you can mentor or can mentor you? And lastly will you pray for an obedient and willing heart?
“It’s about our hearts, our time, our talents, and our treasures. We are to be generous, willing to share, and rich in good deeds for the glory of God” – Proverbs 31 ministries.
This is my prayer not only for the ladies of ABC but for the body of Christ at ABC.