I grew up with two older sisters.
When I was in first grade, I was riding the school bus and being harassed by a boy in my grade. He was twisting my arm around and being just plain mean. It took only moments for my oldest sister (a middle schooler) to see what was happening and jump in to help me get out from under the burden I clearly couldn’t handle on my own.
When I was in late elementary school (and sharing a room with my other sister), I had a terrible, terrible nightmare. Sleepwalking included. It was so bad I still remember it more than 20 years later. My sister calmly got out of bed, sat me down on her own bed (because I had crossed the room and was near her), and helped me calm down. She came to my side when I needed her most.
Ok, last one.
When I was about 15, my sisters sat me down and taught me how to tweeze my eyebrows. I didn’t know I needed this, but my ignorance was quite evident in my near-unibrow. They saw my need and taught me without embarrassing me or making me feel stupid. They just helped. And I still remember sitting and laughing (and crying, because, tweezers!) with my sisters in my bedroom, because they took the time to see my need and teach me.
What does all of this mean, especially as it relates to my perspective as a preacher’s wife?
It’s like this: I live approximately 500 miles away from my sisters. Actually, my husband and I live 500 miles away from any physical family members. That means we don’t have our daughter’s grandparents to pop over and babysit if a need arises. We don’t have our dads to come over and help repair…whatever decides to break this week. Our moms aren’t available to come over and help us fix meals or watch Anna while we clean or run errands. Our siblings aren’t around to go out to eat with or plan fun outings with. But do you know who IS here? Our church family. And they fill every single one of those needs. We’ve got surrogate parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and everything in between. Let me tell you, I don’t know what I would do without them. I know we would have had to pay a lot of money to hire movers instead of letting our church family load us up and move us across town. I know I would have been completely ill-equipped for motherhood if I didn’t have older sisters in Christ who taught me all about car seats and baby-wearing and feeding and (insert everything else because I was so clueless). The list could go on and on.
I don’t know what kind of congregation you find yourself in. I grew up in a place where it seemed everyone was related somehow, or at least all went to high school together 30 years earlier. I’ve been places where everyone is literally related. Or you might be in a congregation like the one I am now, where there are few large family units, but mostly it’s just a lot of us out on our own. Wherever you find yourself, can I encourage you to reach out to your brothers and sisters? Surely there’s someone in your congregation you don’t know as well as others. Could you help them with a burden they can’t handle on their own? Could you go to their side when they are in a time of need? Could you be close enough to them to see when they need teaching and/or correcting and go to them in humility, without judgment or a “holier than thou” attitude? That’s what siblings do.
Christians should be able to depend solely on the relationships they form with other members of the body. How many of us are physically isolated or spiritually isolated from family? How many are widows? How many have lost a parent or child? How many of us need other people? God knew and knows we do. And that’s why He gave us the church.
I was blessed to grow up with sisters who cared about me and looked out for me. It is my prayer that we can all be the same way within our congregations. As members of the church, we have a responsibility to one another. To hold up, to stand beside, to reach out, and to help. We understand this from a physical family member side; let’s live it out in the spiritual family member side, too.
Being a Christian is a blessing. God has richly blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). One of those immensely great blessings is being a part of a body whose head is Christ and whose members are part of one another (Rom. 12:5).
This week, reach out to your brothers and sisters. Be vulnerable and tell them you need them, then take the initiative to be there when (and even before!) they need you.