by Karin Sasser
Did you know that there are 59 “one another” statements in the New Testament? Here are just a few:
“Love one another” (John 13:34)
“Be devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10)
“Serve one another” (Galatians 5:13)
“Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2)
“Be kind to one another, forgiving each other” (Ephesians 4:32)
“Encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
“Pray for one another” (James 5:16)
It makes me think that our relationships with one another are of supreme importance to God. In other words, we are created for community.
I think God included these commandments in the Bible to help meet our needs and so that we, in turn, could help meet the needs of others.
Community is highlighted all throughout the Bible. It starts with the very essence of God and one of the greatest mysteries about Him: the Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – God in three persons. I can’t begin to explain this, but I think it reveals the importance of relationships. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
Many of us were reminded of this truth throughout the recent pandemic, where we found ourselves to be more isolated than we had ever been before. And particularly when it comes to parenting, wouldn’t we all appreciate someone to help bear our burdens, encourage us, and pray for us?
As we have begun to move out of the confines created by the pandemic, most of us find ourselves back in a pace of life that keeps us very busy. We have households to run, jobs to go to, families to care for, and activities to attend. As we grow older and life revolves more and more around work and family, friendships and relationships outside of the home and work sometimes get the short end of the stick. But let’s face it, parenting teens can be hard, and having a community to “one another” with us could be really helpful!
Take a moment and reflect on your friendships. Do you have one or two people you feel comfortable sharing your struggles and celebrations with? Do you have a friend or two you are talking with regularly? Do you have someone who encourages you, challenges you, and prays for you? If yes, keep investing in those friendships! If not, consider how you could develop a friend or two like this—is there someone you could work out with once a week who you also can confide in? Is there a small group at your church you could join? Is there someone you have thought would be a good friend, and you just need to initiate going out for a cup of coffee? Is there a couple who has kids in the same stage of life as you that you could invite over for a meal? Often times the first step in building community is just that, being willing to take a first step. The second step is to be willing to be vulnerable. It’s amazing how many times I’ve been in a group of people, particularly parents, and one opens up about a struggle they are having, and all of a sudden, the floodgates open, and others share similar or different struggles they are facing as well. We are meant to bear one another’s burdens. We are not meant to navigate this life alone.
Another thing that may be helpful is a piece of parenting advice I was once given. Find someone or a couple whose kids are a stage ahead of yours and develop a relationship with them. Find someone who has already lived through your current phase and is willing to listen and offer advice. Take them out for a cup of coffee or invite them over for dinner and ask them what they learned through parenting in a particular stage. What did they do right? What would they do differently? Many people are more than glad to share what they learned from their mistakes as well as what they found to be helpful when it comes to parenting kids.
While most of us are in a stage of life where husband and father or wife and mother are our primary roles, we shouldn’t forgo the importance of friendships. While family plays an integral role in how God created us, He also intends for us to live in a larger community – one where we love one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, and pray for one another among many, many other “one anothers.”