Friday, February 3, 2017

Shared in Common


I first met Amber last Spring at Rooted Chicago. I had known her name for a while from social media and admired her knack for always pulling the best quote out of an article she shares online - something I'm not particularly good at. Standing next to her in that darkened sanctuary, I was able to really see her.

As I have mentioned, I'm being very intentional about listening to the voices and stories around me which might be different than my own. I am tremendously weary of the prevailing echo chamber concept, where we're quick to huddle up with others who look, live, and believe just as we do. I'm desperate to learn from friends who experience life differently and I'm committed to sharing some of those voices here on my blog, just as I shared Jess's story several months back.

Amber is a beautiful writer with an important story to tell. I asked if she would be willing to talk with us about what it's like (and what it could be like) to be a single woman in the church. I'm beginning to see the way we cater to marriage issues, quietly implying that our single brothers and sisters are not yet whole people. I'm recognizing our tendency to idolize families, quietly implying that a single person doesn't *really* have one - yet. I've been guilty of this myself. These sinful biases are inflicting real damage throughout our churches and we are missing out when we push politely push people to the margins until we feel that they're ready to hang with us.

Just last night Calvin was being DJ on the way to get groceries at Aldi. Naturally, Lacrae ended up in the mix. In one of my favorite songs he raps, "Your money your singleness marriage talent your time They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine."

I'm grateful that Amber is stewarding her gift of singleness well, willing to share with us so that we might see more clearly just exactly who God is and how He loves every single one of us.


Shared in Common
by Amber Wackford

After I was fired at the beginning of last year, I went home to Maryland for a couple of weeks. I needed to hug my mom, pray with the ladies from my Bible study, and eat at my best friend’s table.

Years before, when I was in my last year of graduate school, finishing classes and interning, my best friend, Jesse, worried about me. I had mentioned offhandedly that my days were so busy I didn’t even have time to eat a sandwich, and she immediately bought protein bars for me to keep in my desk and insisted on making dinner Tuesday nights before we went to Bible study.  I didn’t have to do anything, she told me, I just had to show up and be okay eating whatever she was making.

Because of this invitation to simply come, their table became for me a place of sanctuary. It was a respite from the craziness of that busy season. I was allowed to come stressed. I was allowed to be tired. I was allowed to talk about work or school, or I was allowed to not talk about work and school. I had all permission in the world to just come; to not take care of anyone, and instead let my friends take care of me.

So, it didn’t come as a surprise to me in that season when my job was gone and I started to question everything about my cross-country move, all I needed to was to sit at my best friend’s table again.

We planned it on a Tuesday night, as we had done some many times before. Only this time, while I set out plates, napkins, and forks and she stirred a pot at the stove, Jesse said without prompting, “I love when you’re home and in my kitchen!”   

From the table where he was buckling their youngest into his high chair, her husband, Matt, piped up, “She’s not kidding.”

“I know,” I said. 

Matt must have heard the dismissing tone in my voice because he didn’t let it go. “No, you don’t. She pines for you.”

I busied myself filling water glasses, and let their words hang in the air. I realized in that moment that the sacredness that I had experienced sitting with them week after week, eating and sharing stories and praying, they had experienced too.

I realized that over the course of several hundred Tuesdays, God had made us family.

***********

I wonder sometimes when we think about Church if we’re too quick to forget stories like this. The ones where people are welcome to come however they are to eat, and pray, and not be alone.

If we’re not quick to forget it, then I think we’re quick to dismiss it.  We’re quick to neglect that the Church is built in ordinary moments, and often in ordinary ways. And that this was always God’s design. It was always meant to be built on shared meals, shared stories, and shared prayers. It was always meant to be about people who love Jesus sharing their lives with each other, becoming friends, becoming a family.

The Church was always meant to be built on what’s shared in common, and too often we focus instead on what makes us different.

Nowhere in my life is this clearer than in my friendship with Matt and Jesse. I am single, and my best friends are married. While I was busy with graduate school, they were busy building a home and starting a family. They have settled in our hometown with their boys, and I left our hometown a year ago to try my hand at a new job.  We are in different seasons, called to prioritize different things, now living in different places, and we remain as connected and smitten with each other as ever.   

Because love is the thing we always hold in common.

***********

When I graduated with my Master’s degree, my married friends sat outside in rain with my parents and witnessed my walk across the stage for my diploma. They threw a party so I could celebrate with my people the accomplishment that came after years of hard work. They rejoiced with me, and they were proud.

Two weeks later, Jesse found out she was pregnant with their first son, the now-nearly-five-year old who calls me Aunt Amber and tells people I’m his best pal. Throughout the months of Jesse’s pregnancy, I ran errands, vacuumed, and scrubbed their kitchen floors. I painted the nursery, and helped Jesse’s mom and sister throw a baby shower. I rejoiced with them, and I still am proud.

I’m proud of how they parent, and proud to be part of the family that’s helping them raise their sons.

Because the thing is when you’ve sat at the table together week after week, and you’ve had all permission in the world to be yourself, and you build these relationships that bleed friendship into family, and you all love Jesus well together, you’re being the Church.

You’re being the kind of Church that Jesus wanted us to be all along. The one that says no to nonsensical divisions and embraces the image of God we see in each other. The one that creates space for the tired, the lonely, and the broken. The one that lets you come as you are have a seat at the table.

So that the things that are seemingly insurmountable differences become the things that are holy and beautiful.

It all works because we hold Jesus in common. And that’s enough. That’s everything.



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11 comments:

  1. YES!!!! I'm "single, never married" (how I hate that phrase) and I travel a whole lot for work. One of THE BEST texts I get from a friend is, "Hey, I left a pot of soup in your refrigerator for when you get home." OR I've returned home and someone has cleaned my house. OR I get a text saying, "I dropped by your house while you were gone. Everything is OK. I picked up a package and watered the plants." OR a last minute text saying, "Hey, we're having XYZ for dinner. Come on over. You don't have to stay all night."
    Just yesterday my mom said, "You are just so busy." Would she prefer the alternative? Should I just sit at home all the time and sulk? I am too busy. I do agree with her. BUT finding the balance is hard. Because I'm it. I'm the only one taking care of my home, shopping, cooking, working, a whole lot has to happen late at night or on the weekends. This is the same for my friends who are moms and work outside the home. I'm not complaining. I'm really not. But these words from Amber are balm for my soul. She gets it and so do her precious, kind, aware friends.
    I also love it when friends welcome me in to their lives. The mundane. The ballet recitals for their kids. The basketball games. Whatever. "Come on over" is one of the kindest messages I can receive. Sitting around the dinner table in the full on chaos of a house of kids is so enjoyable for me. I'm 45. I've pretty much died to the dream I've had for 33 years of being a wife and mom. SO it's a gift to be with friends who treat me like family.
    I'm so glad Amber has this too - though I hate those friends are now far away.

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  2. Wow, wow, wow! I ache for these relationships. I want to love like this. Thank you for such honest sharing.

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  3. Thank You for sharing Ambers story. As a single woman, this spoke to my heart!

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  4. I love this post, Shannan. It's refreshing to hear stories and things like this among all the blogs I love. I'm so grateful for my church, and my pastor and his wife, my good friend, who open their home to me in so many ways, often times just for baked ziti. The simple act of a dinner I didn't cook for myself goes a long way for my soul. Our church is diverse in it's demographics, which I think just inherently prevents the "family" becoming the idol - which is a huge blessing to me and hopefully to others there. So grateful, that I haven't felt "left out" in that kind of way worshiping and serving. God is so good, and put me in a situation that builds my faith through them. :) Thanks, girl for taking time to recognize this and share the beauty in it.

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  5. Dear Shannon ~ This was beautiful and touching.

    I am 'single', but there's another part to that, I'm a 'widow' for the past 4 years now, after being married for 43. People don't really know how to deal with widowhood. I do have a small church family and feel loved, on Sundays.

    I am thankful Amber and other single ladies have found 'family' in God's family. That is a gift for them and the ones who invite them to be part of their lives.

    God bless you Amber and God bless you Shannon as you share so much here about our different lives and how love is the important ingredient in any relationship.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

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  6. This brought tears to my eyes--specifically the line: "She pines for you." I believe we are meant to have friends like this, close friendships, family, single or not.

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    1. Yes! I loved that part too. Growing up my grandmother always talked to me about her best friend, Mary. They met as young mothers and continued their friendship until death. She always told me to "find your Mary. Find the friend that completes you." She emphasized the importance of a close friendship and how good it was for the soul. I got lucky and found two "Mary"s. I don't know how but friends like that get you through all the tough times.

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  7. Shannan and Amber, thank you for sharing this. I've felt the yearning in recent weeks to invite singles into our home for weeknight dinners and I worried it would be inconvenient, boring, or even chaotic to their lives to eat with my husband, me and 5 kids. But this speaks to something so much deeper. A need to be welcomed no matter how different our lives may look on the outside. Thank you so much for sharing this and convicting me, ladies!

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    1. I love it when God speaks like this, Jessica.

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