A bit of a rough day in these parts, today. The kids had a sleepover last night and they are being total bears today because of it. I guess it’s been a long week for all of us, getting back into scheduled, school life. There’s been crankiness all around. And when these days happen, I find myself longing for some sort of camaraderie in my misery. The Vanderlifestyle is unique here on campus. There are no other familes where both parents are in school. There are no families with three kids in our kids’ age group. I often have people come up to me and say, “I don’t know how you guys are doing it!” whether it be in terms of school or the kids or finances.
The things is, some days feel like a breeze. (There are some great perks to the “student lifestyle,” after all.) Some days we push through. And some days feel exhausting and brutal and like there’s no one who “gets it.” But, there’s this nagging feeling in me that says “I’ve made the bed of student-mothership, so I must lie in it.” And I assume that a lot of people think that about me. I often think it about myself. But I also long for someone to say, “It sounds like you’re getting overwhelmed. How can I help out?” And then when that doesn’t happen (if I’m being brutally honest), I get bitter that that doesn’t get said.
Where does that phrase fit in the Body of Christ, anyway? What does it mean to live as Christ’s Body? What does it mean to live in community? It means that we share the load, as Sam Gamgee would say. We help when there is a need. But does it matter where that need came from? Do we only help when that need came from an external source? What about when a need arises from a person’s choice? Does it make a difference if that choice was wise or foolish?
Sometimes I think we live as if it does matter. And probably sometimes it does matter. There’s a fine line between being bailed out of a/every poor decision and knowing that someone is there for you in the consequences of those poor decisions. That’s my first point: do we set conditions on our care of others?
My second point is that, as a Body, we all notice different things. I am very aware of the needs women have when they bring home babies. And I want to make them food and send them encouraging emails and babysit their kids and hold their babies for them when they’re out. Because I remember how the smallest things could turn my day around.
But that’s a very niche market– the new mom, isn’t it? Every group of people, every age, every demographic has needs. And we all notice different ones. It could be because of our past experiences or our interests. So when I get annoyed because only a few people recognize how hard life can be in the Vandertrailer some days, I need to remember that those people probably notice different kinds of needs. Or those people have their own needs that they need to look after at the moment.
I remember after the house we moved into when Olivia was four weeks old flooded when she was six weeks old, we had a pile of dirt in our driveway for three months that summer as we tried to fix the slope problem that had caused the flooding. We had many friends and family who helped us through it all. But our neighbours never once came and offered a hand. One day (after the pile being there for three months) as Marc and I were shoveling wheelbarrows full of dirt, with Olivia in her car seat and two and four year old Luke and Madeline playing on the pile, our neighbour pulled up into his driveway which was right next to where we were, drove into his garage, and shut the door. Now, he could have had a busy day, he could have somewhere to be that night… I should not judge him. But in that moment I thought, “Take the damn shovel for ten minutes and help us out! You have no idea how much ten minutes would mean to us! It might not make a dent in the pile. But it would make a big dent in us!”
When we live as the Body of Christ we need to live open lives. We need to live so that our needs and vulnerabilities are not hidden from others. But we should not live in bitterness when those needs overwhelm us. We are not in a competition for the “most needs” or the “busiest life”. In fact, in the midst of being open about our needs, we need to make space (actual physical space and the space of finding time) to help others in their needs.
I think if we start shoveling each others’ dirt a little bit each day or each week, we will find that life in community is much better than life in isolation — those shovels and piles of dirt that drag us down, are actually the things that lift us up.