When I opened up social media one morning this week, the first three posts were by friends fighting some of life’s hardest battles.
Cancer, cancer, and flesh-eating bacteria.
Yes, flesh-eating bacteria.
In my email to our Builders this week, I shared a bit about my dad and the community of the waiting room. My dad became deathly ill in 1988. I was 11 years old. The stories I know of what happened in that hospital waiting room come from others, my mom, my grandparents, my parents’ friends, because the adults in my life at the time were doing their best to protect my brother and me. And I am so grateful for both their protection then and their willingness to share later.
Back in those days, ye ole 1980’s, we did not walk around with cell phones. Not to mention the handheld computers we call “phones” these days. An ICU nurse brought a phone into Dad’s room and since he ended up spending 5 weeks there, that one act was such a blessing.
But my favorite story is about a simple gift.
A bag of quarters.
A couple from my parent’s Sunday School class came to visit my mom in that waiting room with a bag of quarters for the pay phone.
That is a gift only someone who had spent time in a waiting room would think to give.
As we think about relationships and building community, I want us to remember we all have a story. Each and every one of us brings our own experiences and messes and victories to each and every relationship we build. And the people we build those relationships with also have their own stories, too.
Because of our stories, we bring our own unique gifts with us.
We each bring a bag of quarters to the waiting room.
Sometimes, we forget we are not promised lives of ease or comfort. James says, “whenever you face trials of any kind” That’s not an IF, that’s a WHEN. But he also tells us to, “Count it all pure joy…”
One of the joys we should be counting along our journey is the tools we take away for building community.
Just as only someone who has sat in a waiting room with a pay phone would bring a friend a bag of quarters, only someone who has been through IVF will bring her friend dinner after her egg retrieval because she knows that’s an out-patient procedure and she won’t be cooking that night.
We each have those experiences.
Searching for Your Quarters…
Spend some time thinking about your journies, your messes, your suffering, your victories. Make a list even. What unique experiences do you have that could be a gift to someone else? What spaces would you show up to with an offering no one else would know to bring?
In my life, it’s obviously infertility. That’s the biggest mess of my adult life because God used it for the biggest transformation in my life which grew into the biggest message of my life. I count those years as absolute JOY. I am grateful all the way down to my bones for that journey.
But we all have more than just one journey.
I knew from those stories my family and friends shared of my mom’s waiting room experience that I needed to get to my friend in her waiting room this week.
I knew when a new neighbor moved into my neighborhood, their kitchen would be a mess and they would love a dinner because I have BEEN that new neighbor…often… eating out way past the point where it’s fun.
I know when someone receives a diagnosis that requires a drastic diet change that I can be a cheerleader and a researcher and even a resource because I have been the person who received the Celiac’s diagnosis and had to learn an entirely new way of nourishing my body.
You have unique experiences too. You have your own quarters to offer.
Grateful for Your Quarters…
Maybe you’re not all that grateful, much less joyful, about your trials or messes or journeys. Maybe you’re not at all sure what you were meant to learn, not positive you were refined, not aware of a single victory in any of that.
But maybe part of the reason we go through any hardships at all is to be that person who shows up with a bag of quarters for the people God has lovingly and intentionally placed in our lives.
In that same passage about trials and pure joy, James tells us that any test of our faith produces perseverance. The Message says it like this, “So don’t try and get out of anything prematurely. Let it do it’s work so you can become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
Wherever you are today, in the middle of a trial, just coming out of a trial, riding high on the mountaintop of trial-free living, your unique experiences can be used to build community.
You have something to bring. You have been matured and well-developed in your unique trial.
Offering Your Quarters…
You might feel like your trials and triumphs are not that great of an offering. The experiences not that important, the trials not that tough.But even if you feel you are lacking, without wisdom, God’s word says the opposite. James teaches us if you endured the trial, if you persevered, if you stuck it out until the end, you are not lacking, not deficient, in that area. God can and will use it for His Glory.
You simply need to offer it up to be used.
This week, make that list. Write down the journeys and messes and victories you have walked through in your life. Then lay the list down at the feet of your Savior for Him to use for Kingdom glory.
I bet, when we take the time to gather all our quarters of trials and triumphs, God will show us exactly the people in our lives in desperate need of that exact change. The people He knew would need you and your unique experiences and so He placed them in your life. And just possibly, we’ll find our way to being grateful for those quarters after all.
(If you would like to join our community of Builders and receive emails like the one I mentioned earlier, sign up for those here.)