Creating Community

ELIZABETH SANTELMANN|GUEST

This evening I was sitting alone in the dark, rocking back and forth. The baby wouldn’t settle, and I started thinking about how many hours I had sat in that chair, rocking alone. I wondered how many of the other young mothers were also around the world rocking back and forth—all of us separated but joined in the community of the rocking chair.

I receive many messages on Instagram from moms everywhere longing for friendship. From moms who feel lonely. From moms who long for connection with others. Why does community seem so hard and overwhelming to find as adults? Why is there not more practical advice on how we can build adult relationships?

The messages I received from other moms revealed we sort ourselves into two camps:

  • Women who are longing for friendship, but don’t even know where to start.
  • Women who have walked alone so long they don’t even realize they need other women beside them. These women often claim all they need are their families.

However, the Bible teaches that we are created to have community with one another. We are created in the image of God and reflect His character. If we had been created in the image of a solitary God, then claiming to not need friends would make sense; however, we are created in the image of a triune God. Our God, in His essence, represents community! This means, we image Him when we are in relationship with others.

This means, we weren’t crafted to just observe the lives of others on social media, read the stories of others in books, and learn about motherhood from magazines. We were created to learn from one another; hear and grow through the stories and lives of others; and live in a physical way with the body of Christ in our communities.

We Need Community

When we isolate ourselves, it is easy to think we are alone in our struggles, rather than realizing the verse “There is no temptation that has over taken you, except that which is common to man” is true for all of us. It also opens us to comparison to people who are not real. Or we can get so stuck in our head with all we’ve learned, that we lose compassion for real people with real stories!

When I was first married, I had just moved to a new city, and finding community was hard. I was very discouraged. My husband challenged me to pray that I would find a friend. I wish I could say I responded gratefully to his wisdom, but instead I yelled, “It doesn’t work that way!!!” But I did pray, and just weeks later, I found someone who has now been a friend nearly 10 years.

Two years later, we had a baby and again the story was repeated. I cried for a mentor. Again, my sweet husband asked if I had prayed about it. Do you think I responded better this time? If you answered, “No, no you did not.” You would be correct. But again, God answered my grumpy prayers and sent me a mentor friend. This time within the month.

Reading this you may think that community “just happens,” but it doesn’t. Community takes work. I’ve had to start almost every mom group I have ever been a part of. I also initiate 80% of my play dates. It’s humbling to reach out time and time again. Sometimes I become angry wishing I was the one being invited instead of always doing the inviting, but the end result is always friendship. And that is worth the vulnerability.

Practical Tips to Build Community

So, if you are longing for community, or if you are convicted that God created you to be in relationship with others, even if you don’t feel like it…

Here are some practical tips!!

  • Pray, ask God to bring you a friend, mentor, or someone to minister to!
  • Remember, if you are feeling this way, you aren’t alone. There are women longing for community who would be blessed by your invitation.
    1. Use this step to ask for a friend from church’s phone number, and then send a text. Maybe invite her to meet you at a park.
    2. If you’re feeling very bold, text several mothers from your church and make it a group gathering. (Ideas to get you started: Have a picnic at a nature park, make a craft, take a walk, go to a splash pad, have a cookout, or host a scavenger hunt.)
  • After a couple of gatherings with your kids, see if you can get an evening out together. It’s so much easier to talk deeply and get to know each other when kids aren’t running around.
  • If you have energy for nothing else, then just send a text message to check in with your friend.
  • Follow people from your church on social media (knowing tidbits about one another makes conversation easier, but please don’t only do this.)

Here’s a final note for women on the other side:  Once you have found your community, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have time for anyone else. Please, look around. Notice the others around you without friendship and take a moment for them. Include them in your community. That doesn’t mean they have to be your new best friend, but you can attempt to connect them to others. In doing so, you can provide an oasis in the desert of loneliness.

Creating communities isn’t always easy, but when we take the effort, we glorify God by reflecting His trinitarian nature. In addition, you will also likely find yourself blessed by the community that begins to surround you.

 

 

About the Author:

Elizabeth Santelmann

Elizabeth Santelmann is the homeschooling mother of three small boys. She loves reading and always has a large stack of books by her bed. She enjoys seeking beauty by taking photographs. And she started combining her photos with writing on Instagram @sunshineinmynest. Her hope was to share what she is learning about gently nurturing, and guiding, our children toward the gospel with our lives and speech.

Before marriage she worked for 4 years in children’s ministry. She has attended Heritage Presbyterian Church with her husband the last 10 years. The past three years she has loved using what she learned about reformed theology, and children’s ministry to write Bible lessons for her church’s VBS.

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