It's still so fresh in my mind, the days and weeks that followed the unexpected death of my Father. That's my Daddy in the photo above. I remember clinging to this photo. To the vivid memories of his smile, his voice, the pride I saw on his face as he walked me down the aisle that day ten years ago. How is he gone?
Processing his death was an hourly roller-coaster of emotions that teetered between utter grief that he was gone, and total relief that he would never experience sadness or suffering ever again. You're never prepared for that phone call. You're never prepared to stand up and deliver a eulogy for your 59-year-old Father who you loved with every fiber of your being. It's surreal and it's devastating.
I've always known the importance of community. I've always understood the many benefits of surrounding yourself with people who are there for you - in good times and bad. But this. Wow, how different it felt. This experience of walking through the death of a loved one, and seeing your community literally holding you up. It just blew me away.
In those first few dark days of grieving, I can't tell you how many times the Holy Spirit worked through the texts and phone calls of my friends. I would receive a verse, a word of intercession, or a simple text saying I LOVE YOU at just the exact moment I needed it. God sent comfort through community. He sent his incredibly personal message to me, through the words and prayers of my friends. I get chills just writing this. Every need, spoken and unspoken, was met during that time. My home was filled with flowers and cards. I didn't have to cook a meal for my family for weeks. Genuine communities will rally for those they love. It's a precious gift.
It's a beautiful picture to think about how we were designed to be the hands and feet of Jesus. There are times in life when we are that extension of Jesus to others, and also times when we are the ones in great need of comfort. And isn't it always the case - that when you are shown the love of Jesus, you in turn can't wait to show it to others? I have a new found compassion for those struggling with how to go on with life after a loved one has died. God has given me new eyes for it by walking that very road myself. This is the body of Christ.
I know we hear it often. "Invest in Community!" And I've certainly rolled my eyes at that message before. Maybe it's because I'm weary from serving my own family. Or maybe it's because I'm quick to think that I can do everything on my own. But truly, I don't know what I would have done these past few weeks without my community loving on me and speaking the words of encouragement that I so desperately needed to hear. We're not meant to suffer alone.
Maybe one of you reading today just needs a little nudge. "Investing in community" can mean many things. It can start as simply as striking up a deeper conversation with the neighbor you usually just give a quick wave to. Or it can be as intimate as sitting on the floor with a grieving friend and praying over her and crying with her. This is love.
In Romans we read that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and then character produces hope. All because of God's love poured into our hearts. My prayer for this community of Thriving Moms is that we all may experience a life of character-building endurance and hope. The kind that is found in Christ and his community.
Bri Carlisle is a wife and mother-of-two living in the Philadelphia area. You can find her over at her personal blog, Woven, where she writes about faith & motherhood and where she also loves sharing her latest Spotify playlists. You can also find her at favorite place to hang out, Instagram.