A number of years ago, God began to impress upon my heart the need to create space in my life. It was very clear that the space was not intended for gardening or education or some other noble pursuit. The purpose of my space was to actually have space. For others. By having them into my home.
I have had periods of intense loneliness in my adult life and periods that were insanely busy. Sometimes I was both busy and lonely at the same time. During all these phases I became keenly aware of how bad many of us are at building community. I think a key reason for this is the value we place on independence. Somewhere in our successful, productive, achieving lives we have lost sight of the fact that we need each other. We have forgotten that despite our independence we are not intended to be alone. We need others. Using the word “need” is not popular. But popular or not, it’s the truth.
And so, I kept some space free each week for women who needed a friend. There are many things I learned during this time, and the first thing I learned was that I would still be lonely. Just creating space in my life did not mean others had created the same space in theirs. I longed to fill the space – to shop or go to the library – but I dutifully kept those spaces open. I read things that nurtured my soul. I prayed more. I cleaned and baked and occasionally succumbed to wretched daytime television. But mostly, I spent time with God. And then, when I was where He wanted me to be, God sent the women to me. I had women over for lunch or coffee. I listened a lot. I laughed a lot. Some women were friends for a time. Some are still a big part of my life. Gradually, the spaces began to fill and what developed was a close community of nurturing women.
I mentioned that the first lesson I learned was that I would still sometimes be lonely. Probably the most important lesson I learned was to listen. I have heard stories that would break your heart, make you laugh or scratch your head in bewilderment. God made it very clear to me that many people need a place to talk and to cry and that I was to be that place. The next important lesson I learned was that it is not my place to fix anybody. I try very hard to never give advice – most people don’t want it anyway – and God heals but I do not. I listen, without judgement, occasionally ask a question or make a comment, but I don’t tell people what to do. I think that’s one of the reasons they trust me. I also never tell anybody anything about anybody else.
I first started leaving spaces in my life a dozen years ago. I’m still doing it. God and I have kind of worked out a pattern of me being available and him sending women my way. I’ve become friends with some wonderful, Godly, amazing women because I was willing to say “Come on over for a coffee and some muffins.” Yes, I’ve been there to listen to them, but they’ve done their share of listening to me. We talk, laugh, share deeply, pray hard and fiercely support one another. Building community takes time, both in duration and in space. It doesn’t happen overnight and it takes lots of sharing space together. But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to say, “Life is hard and I can’t take this journey alone. I need others.”
I encourage you to have the courage to create a little space in your life. Some days you will spend that time on your own. Learn to live with the silence. But some days, you will be just the person somebody else needs. So, put a banana bread in the oven and put on a pot of coffee. God has somebody he wants to send your way.
Image attribution: Fuse / Thinkstock