11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12, ESV)
Last week, my kids and I went to the zoo for a playdate with a mom from my MOPS group. This friend and I had been trying since May to get together, and finally put something on the calendar three weeks in advance, so this had been planned for awhile. When the day arrived, my kids and I were all tired from being out late the prior night and yet still waking up at normal times that morning. (Read: The children woke up at their normal times wanting all of the things, and I was forced to claw my way out of bed, slide down the stairs, and make all of the coffee). I was also feeling weary from my husband’s 3rd shift schedule combined with the lack of predictability that is par for the course with his job. In short, by that afternoon, I was unashamedly throwing myself a pity party and, when my son broke down in a flood of tears as we were leaving, I almost texted this mom to tell her we needed to reschedule. The only thing that stopped me was that we had been looking forward to this for weeks, and I wasn’t sure when we’d get another chance to hang out.
As I drove crying kids to the zoo, I continued to doubt whether we had made the right decision in coming. After parking and unloading the stroller, snacks, sunscreen, diaper bag, and of course children, my phone rang. It was my friend, letting me know that they were running a few minutes late. Her little one had refused a nap and there had been some drama getting out of the house. I asked if she’d like to reschedule but she declined and said she would see us soon.
After we were all present and accounted for, and the kids were occupied on the zoo playground, we began to catch up in the fragmented way that moms do with eyes darting back and forth from kids to each other. I shared my frustrations over our schedules with her and she reiterated with the same frustrations. As it turned out, her husband was also being asked to work long days and weekends recently, and it had made their normal routine nonexistent. She was also feeling weary, alone, and overwhelmed. As the conversation continued, she began asking me pointed questions such as, “What have you been doing today to deal with those feelings?” and “How do you guys manage time together in these seasons?”. She wasn’t asking in order to lecture or counsel me. She was asking as a friend, mom, and woman in the same boat, wondering what other people do to successfully paddle upstream in these seasons of life.
As we chatted, learned from one another, and gleaned ideas for date nights and family times, we both began to feel increasingly encouraged and equipped. Walking toward the exit of the zoo, we marveled at how this day had come together. At how we both arrived feeling straight-up spent, just as God knew that we would. At how our life circumstances aligned that week, just as the Lord knew they would. And at how Jesus knew that we would need each other on June 28th for encouragement and wisdom, even though we had no idea that would be the case when we circled that date in our planners.
Driving home, I reflected on how my day would have unfolded differently had I canceled this playdate as I had considered doing. I was certain I would still be in the throes of self-pity and that my children would have had significantly more screen time than is recommended by the AAP (just #keepingitreal here). Instead, that day became a living, breathing reflection of I Thessalonians 5:11 which reads, “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (NIV)
I am reminded of Paul when he says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11-12, ESV, emphasis mine) Friends, if Paul needed encouragement in life and faith, I think it’s likely that we do as well. Have you ever felt the longing that Paul is talking about? A longing for connection, for someone who just “gets” you? At times, we may not even realize that our soul is crying out for this until we are refreshed by fellowship with a friend. Praise God that He cares about the details of our lives, enough so to arrange playdates, grocery store run-ins, “random” phone calls, and more, simply to encourage and point us back to Him. What a gracious God we serve!
This week, I pray that we can be people who encourage, even when we ourselves feel discouraged.
I pray that we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds by asking meaningful questions and offering gentle wisdom.
Mostly, I pray that we will see the Lord’s care for us in the unlikely, the untidy, and the unfiltered places of our lives.
May we know that we are not alone, that there is a season for everything, and that we need each other for this journey.
I am praying for you this week, friends!