“Your gall bladder needs to come out right now,” the emergency room doctor said. “I’ll contact the surgical team.” I was in a city far from home, my husband recovering from spinal surgery nine floors above where I lay on the emergency room gurney. If I had been home, I would have acquiesced. But not here. I need my people. I need my church.
I insisted upon leaving, medications and stern warnings in hand so that my husband could check out and we could make it home. Home to our church. Our people.
We have always been intimately connected to God’s family wherever we lived. They have rejoiced and grieved with us throughout the ups and downs of life. It was before our church, our people that we said our vows, celebrated our adoptions and walked through multiple hospitalizations with our son.
I remember when Ben was in the hospital for open-heart surgery, seeing another infant there, alone. His mother couldn’t be there, I was told, because she had other children to care for. She had no people, no church to step into her time of need, and I grieved for her, for this unnamed woman who had to navigate her grief so terribly alone. It was Thanksgiving and my birthday, and my people, my church, had pitched in for a hotel room, our pastor and good friends making the long drive to be with us in our time of need.
I remember the time when other families took our three sick children when they gave me a severe case of chicken pox. I also remembered the many meals we’d brought to others, the emergency housing we offered, the prayers and encouragement we shared with those in grief or pain.
Now we are home recovering and some are bringing warm meals through our door, others taking Ben so that we can rest. Prayers have been mobilized, encouraging calls and texts received. We are safe once again within the embrace of our church, our people.
It is humbling to be the ones in need, instead of the ones helping. It is a good and necessary lesson to reach out for help when you are used to being on the other side.
And how many of us prefer to suffer in silence rather than call on the ones eager to care for us?
It is in times like these that I wonder how people cope with tragedy without family or church to help share the load. We are created for community, to rejoice and to weep within the nurturing circle of mutual care.
From the very beginning we were created to be members of each other, in families first and then communities. And, finally, the church – literally ekklesia, a group of people called out to belong to each other. The great miracle of this gathering is that it crosses all kinship groups, cultures and status.
The reason we belong to each other is our common faith, not our common circumstances. It goes against the clannish call of culture and prejudice. We are to serve each other in love.
I write this now while also battling illness on top of our surgeries, but I am okay. I have my people, my church watching over me, over us.
Soon, I trust, I’ll be able to return to helper instead of the helped. But I will bring with me a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the interdependence I live in. Among my people, my church.
Just the way God designed it.