The Need for Community

Last night, my daughter called me and said that a boy who attended her old highschool had taken his life. She was classmates with the boy’s brother and knew the family quite well. She said, “Dad, I just need to talk this out”. All I could do was listen and think of the nightmare that family must be going through. I also thought about and reached out to the school, offering the only thing I could, which was prayer. This was/is a time for grieving. It is also a time for community.

Just prior to this information, my wife and I were in a small group meeting that is associated with our church. We received information that a young girl of 7 years old (associated with members of our group) was diagnosed with cancer and would be undergoing daily chemotherapy for 6 weeks. She was the oldest child of 3.

Both of these situations stabbed me in the heart. As a dad, I have no greater fear than the loss or potential loss of a child. I would never want to have the arrogance to say that I remotely understand this type of pain. I realize that several of my readers have been through this. I have no words to offer. I only can describe a pain in my chest when I hear about such things. 

I do understand 2 things when it comes to suffering. The first is that there is a strength that can be drawn from a person’s faith. I cannot describe it more than a sense of peace. I have seen it take place in the face of many tragedies and can tell you that it is real. Many people may doubt the legitimacy of faith. However, when you are in agony, most people will grab a hold of anything that works. Faith in God has been the only constant that I have ever witnessed that truly works.

If faith were peanut butter, I would proclaim community to be the jelly. Community is the second part of the equation that seems to play a significant role in the area of comfort and encouragement. Sadly, while many dads may have faith, we are somewhat lone wolves when it comes to community. We hate the feeling of vulnerability, yet desperately seek to ease our suffering. Many times this gets in the way of healing. This is why we say we are “fine” or nothing at all.

When we allow it, community can be the tool combined with faith to pull us through. It keeps us from shutting down and burying all our hurt and fear. I’m still trying to learn this lesson. I find it difficult to rely on others. When my mother passed away, two of my sisters talked about my strength. Apparently I was a “rock” during that time. However, nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was hurt, lost, and hated the world. Everything got “darker” for me. My mother was very kind and gentle. She symbolized what was good walking around on earth. I didn’t want to let people see me hurting. I also missed out on many expressions of love and encouragement.

Although I did heal with time. It took a lot longer for me than maybe it should have. I have faith but did not want people “taking care of me”. The loss or suffering of a child is a situation that I would dread far more. For me, all I know is that to be alone would not be good. That being said, I strongly believe in the ability of those that care for us to be a huge foundation coupled with faith. God made us with the intent of “doing community”. When the church was established they took care of each other (see Acts). They needed each other. Today, many churches struggle to meet the needs coupled with the problem that people bury their weakness and pain.

With a fear of intruding, being uncomfortable, or lacking courage, we can miss the opportunity to be a part of the care and healing for others. Many times we don’t know what to say or do. Sometimes we can even feel like our mere presence is an intrusion. It can be difficult to get in the trenches. However, when we do, it sets an example for our children. It teaches them to serve others as well as sends the message that it is okay to receive help. This could help them greatly in the years to come.

Both in the Old and New Testaments, it says that God will never leave us nor forsake (abandon) us. As I have said in other posts, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is to “be there”. Show your kids how to serve. Let them know that it is okay to be served in a time of need. Be the best dad possible.


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