Creating a true and deep sense of community while building a living-list of loving, close friends/family to call on when we are at the end of our rope as single mom’s and dad’s seems like an insurmountable obstacle at times. Right up there with our nagging loneliness and the constant struggle to put food on the table, asking-for-help is one of the frustrations we put at the top of our lists. We imagine “if only” we had a couple more close friends or if a nice family would “adopt” our little, wobbly, single-parent family or if we could finally get through this crappy-schedule or go on a vacation things would be better.
Not only do we often feel short of resources—our list of loving-community-members seems too short to cover how enormous our need for a break and more-help feels, we feel like we can never begin to pay-back all the gifts we’re given.
In my own journey I’ve experienced a deep perspective change when I get over the shame of “needing” so much to recognize that I am also giving constantly into my community in many ways—ways that are invisible to me when I only focus on my failings. When I begin to allow God’s love to break through this shame barrier the flow starts again and asking for help seems much less impossible.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself
This morning I listened and prayed along with the Mull Monastery’s “Prayer for an INCREASE of LOVE”on my commute to another 12-hour home-health shift. While I’ve heard the passage on the second greatest commandment many times, and heard a zillion commentaries on this passage, I heard it within a new frame this morning. Rather than reminding me to love myself better or more purely or first-before-others (a questionable concept at best) OR condemning myself for not loving my neighbor enough, I saw this passage in the light of the entire prayer service as prayed by the Mull Monastery. Today I saw that only in the unity of BOTH of these loves that creates the ongoing, energized flow of the Source of Love itself. This flow that’s Source is the Divine breaks through my always-unbalanced love-of-myself to include love-of-others in the only cure that can re-balance and refocus me. After all, I struggle to forget that my own tummy rumblings or to ignore that my own toes are cold but I easily forget to look through another’s eyes to see how they feel—afraid that I’ll be swamped or taken advantage of or having nothing to soothe their hungers. But what if I accept that human selfishness means I’ll be looking-out-for-myself automatically and the only fix is to allow God’s Love to love me AND my neighbor together, in the same space of God’s kingdom?
Last night I was despairing of ever “giving back” to the many folks who’ve come alongside to love on my children this Summer. Despite often feeling at the end of my rope and thrown around by stresses, the children and I have been so very blessed! As I moped about my situation and limitations I was wishing I had some money to share with the family including my son in so many adventures. And I wish I had the funds to fully pay up my son’s Boy Scout books. Then I went on to wish I could give a regular offering, or at least a dependable tithe to my parishes! Oh how I wish I didn’t have a delinquent bill at my children’s church school that is taking me way too long to pay up. And that’s not to mention the extensions I’ve had to ask for with my lawyer and my office rent and my coach and the barely mowed lawn I promised my landlord I’d keep up with or the creative-bill-plans I’ve requested from my utilities etc. etc.
But what about the gifts I share of my teen girls trustworthy industriousness with two different families to house sit, care for their animals and keep their yards watered while they are away? What about sharing the bounty of the garden one of those families shared with us with the family sharing their time and love with my son? What about sharing the burden of the yard more insistently with my own children—as capable and mostly-willing as they are—rather than stacking it up as a mom-fail? What about the blessing of giving a loved church member a ride to church no matter that it’s only one time this month…or the couple hours of volunteering I can offer to our church school the next couple weeks?
To imagine that the “little” I have to “give back” isn’t enough in God’s Kingdom, so to then withhold my own “widows mite” out of a misplaced sense of shame is to stop up the flow of God’s Love to and through me and back into the community where he has placed me.
Remembering God’s love for me
As I thank God for this new awareness of my often-wobbly membership in His Family no matter how inadequate or small I feel my contribution is many small-but-huge-to-me loving-kindnesses of community members who “just” do their jobs and would decline my enormous gratitude come to mind:
—the Orthodox “mama” I can call or text any time for a listening ear
—the confessor/spiritual father only a call or email away
—the teachers and administrators at our church school
—the Boy Scout leaders, counselors, ranch owners, 4-H leaders and great friends in our hometown
All these individuals are “just” doing their jobs yet with their whole heart and with real love. Who am I to shrink for accepting God’s love through them? Who am I to choose to believe they aren’t loving on us? Or to somehow refuse that love because I also am “just” doing my job?
Our job and our calling
When we “count it all joy” and give “glory to God for EVERY thing” this also includes rejoicing in our many imperfections and the heavy debt we owe for the blessings that seem to overflow. Even while we hang on by our fingertips or walk through the valley of the shadow of death—battling for our children’s salvation and safety in ways both practical and spiritual—our very existence as mother’s and father’s of precious children, working at whatever menial or significant jobs, showing up however unfaithfully to prayer and services is as much the vital working of God’s love in our communities as any other individual with a higher calling. The failure to provide a whole, two-parent-led, home for our children, to be there after school every day or ensure 100% attendance at every service or whatever other bar we hold up for ourselves, does not, cannot, cancel out the Flow of Christ’s love in and through our lives.
This is where our truest calling and our vital wholeness is unable to be denied. When you and I stand before the devils accusations claiming that God’s love is for us and through us and in us, no accusation of the enemy can stand…not the least of which is our own voices often tempted to denounce, judge and sentence ourselves to “pay back” that Love that can never be repaid.