We’ve all heard the phrase, right?
It takes a village.
It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to pursue a dream. It takes a village to weather a difficult life experience. It takes a village to simply stay alive on this rough journey called life.
It takes a village.
What about when that village changes? What about when a villager suddenly disappears? Or slowly but inexorably fades away?
It’s only natural that as our lives change, so will our villages evolve. The people with whom we once so deeply connected in college fade away as our faith deepens and theirs doesn’t. Those who we got to know before we became parents are harder to connect with because the schedule of a parent differs from the schedule of a non-parent. We realize how much our priorities shift after having children and non-parents’ priorities don’t.
I am slowly coming to terms with the loss of one of my own villagers. It has been a very painful experience, as I slowly realized the drift, as communication faltered, as messages went unreturned. I’ve spent, in all reality, far too much time trying to analyze, to figure it out, to determine what I did wrong to push this villager away.
I believe therein lies the problem. I have believed that it was my fault. That something I did, the person I am, pushed my villager away. I think the truth lies somewhere else. That we are intrinsically very different. That how I communicate is at odds with how this villager receives communication. That our priorities regarding faith are different. That one of us is a parent and the other isn’t. That we both went through life altering circumstances in the same year. That neither of us were really able to be the support the other one needed as much as was needed because we were both coming to terms with a new life reality.
Has that ever happened to you? What villagers have you lost? How did they move out of your village?
I am an expert at losing villagers. I have precisely zero villagers left from high school, two from college, and now zero from post-college/pre-momhood. I am slowly building up a village of other moms, each of whom I am immensely grateful that they choose to share life with me. That we understand the rocky times, the rough times, the smooth times that parenthood brings.
The thing is, about villages changing, is that it’s a normal part of life. A village is constantly changing, constantly growing, evolving, adapting, shrinking based on how we grow, evolve, and adapt to our changing life circumstances. As painful as each villager loss is, that pain should pale in comparison to our constant village leader, Jesus Christ.
He is one villager who has not and never will leave any village into which he is invited. Perhaps we lose villagers because we depend too much on our human villagers and not enough on our savior villager. I am definitely guilty of that. People tell me what a strong Christian I am, what a woman of God I am, while I look at me and see the mornings I fail to read my Bible, the times I fail to pray before or after turning to people, the times I think or say careless or hurtful things. I know it’s all part of being human and that God knows our hearts, even better than we do, but it’s hard to feel like I don’t measure up to what other people see of me.
How about you? Do you feel like your villagers or even visitors to your village have an inaccurate perception of you, whether for better or worse?
As much as I try to live an authentic life, people still only see snapshots. They only see the little bits I let out, that I broadcast via any communication channel. People don’t know I am struggling unless I share it. People don’t know I’m happy unless I share it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t share everything. I don’t share things that I really probably should share. I keep the hard stuff in most of the time. Oh you do it, too?
Why do we do that?
Don’t we WANT authentic relationships? Don’t we clamor for them? Drag ourselves through the desert to find them?
The secret, though, is that it’s precisely the sharing of the hard stuff that deepens our relationship with our fellow villagers. It’s the stuff deep down. The stuff we don’t talk about parties. The stuff that haunts us when we’re alone with our thoughts. Maybe we need to intentionally decide to reach out and open up to our villagers. Maybe we write it in a safe space and then commit to NOT deleting it. Maybe we write up and actually SEND that email.
Authenticity and vulnerability are scary things, especially if you’re like me and somehow believe that you’re a person to merely be tolerated. If the loss of villagers has made you shy to share. If you believe that it’s precisely your vulnerability that caused the villagers to leave in the first place.
Friend, you are not someone to merely be tolerated. As one of my villagers pointed out to me, no human has the right to make you feel less than you are. You are a creation of the most high God. You are delighted in and loved by him.
Friend, you have been designed exactly as you are for this time, for this season, to achieve a purpose. Your gifts and talents are just what are needed in your circle of influence. You are not a mistake. You are not an accident. No matter what that kid in 5th grade said. No matter what that drunk college said. No matter what your boss told you. Or your father. Or your mother. Or any other human.
You have been created uniquely on purpose, with loving hands, for such a time as this. Your village has been built around you uniquely on purpose.
Oh the loss of villagers hurts, I am well aware. My heart hurts for each villager that has gone over the years. I remember all of them. But, friend, don’t let that pain stop you from continuing to grow your current village, to invest in them. Our villages are meant to change. That change is meant to grow us.
Carry on, brave friend, and life a life of authenticity.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-5
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. –Galatians 6:7-10