She was new to our Bible study group. She was a good thirty years younger than most of the women present and in an entirely different season of life. But she had something on her heart and didn’t hesitate to share it with the group, just as soon as we took prayer requests.
“I just had a miscarriage.”
I was so surprised by her boldness in sharing it like that. I’d known other young women in the church who had gone through miscarriages and hadn’t shared them with anyone, save for a few friends their age, me included. These other young women had never shared it with a group like the one that was gathered there that day to hear this sweet young mother’s story, even though they’d been part of the church for much longer than she had.
She began to cry as she talked about who she’d lost, how she was nervous about future pregnancies, and all that she was working through. The ladies gathered there quickly began passing a box of tissues over to her as they listened. They were grandmothers, some of them great grandmothers, far removed from childbearing years.
But do you know what happened? As this young woman cried, another woman in the group spoke up. Her children were finishing up high school… all but the one she’d lost seventeen years earlier. She began sharing about the stillbirth of her son, about how she’d coped, about how she thought of him every day, and about how God was her comfort even this far removed from the reality of holding that sweet boy in her arms. The tissue box was passed around again.
Then, another woman spoke up. She was a great grandmother of many children, but she was crying, too. She’d battled infertility her entire life, raising her husband’s son from a previous marriage as she’d longed to carry and birth a sibling for him. That prayer had never been answered, and fifty years later, she still mourned for what could have been, even as she acknowledged God’s goodness in allowing her to be a mother despite the loss she experienced every month for so many years. The tissue box was passed once more.
Other women spoke up. Miscarriages. Infertility. Stillbirths. Children who had lived then preceded their mothers in death. Again and again, all around that group, everyone had a story to tell given the decades of experience gathered there that day. And they all cried together, testifying to hope in Christ, even in a world that is broken and hands us such crippling loss.
I thought about the other young women in our church who were mourning similar losses but held back from being in community with these older women. Instead, they took their hurts to their peers, people who were in the same season of life as they were, expecting that they could only connect with those who were like them in noticeable ways. What a wealth of comfort and ministering they were missing out on by avoiding this community of older women who had walked these very same roads!
I saw it again and again over the years spent with this group of women. My kids were little, and so much of my parenting was influenced by these saints who would catch me on some of my worst days, give me good counsel, and give me a hint of what was ahead as they talked about their own grown children. The common theme? We had to pray over those kids whether they were five or thirty-five because no one ever had it completely figured out. And the mistakes they’d made along the way as parents were just as educational as the right moves they’d made. I once asked a woman who had raised five children on her own as a young widow how she had managed to raise up such godly men and women (who were now godly grandparents themselves – wow!), and she said, in complete seriousness, “I had the Proverbs in one hand and a switch in the other.” Do you think I could have gotten that kind of wisdom from a group of peers? I don’t think so, y’all.
All this said, I see a real desire in our churches today for real community, but more often than not, when we pursue it, we tend to flock to groups that are just like us. Age-graded, similar life seasons, grouping together by our similarities – that’s our tendency. But we’re missing out. The body of Christ is diverse – all kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds and life stories and seasons, united by our identity as people redeemed by Christ. I sincerely believe that God longs to teach us so much through one another, if we’ll be bold and vulnerable at the same time, actively pursuing community – real community – with those who aren’t like us, save for faith in Christ. It takes effort and work to connect to one another like this, but I think there’s great reward in it. God is honored as we know Him better by working together as the body, investing ourselves into one another for His glory.
So, be like that brave young mother who shared her story with women who, on the surface, didn’t look like they could relate. But they could. And what a blessing she received as they gathered around her, cried with her, loved her, testified to God’s goodness along with her, and prayed for her. What a gift, that she was on their hearts and minds and that they knew how to pray for her because they’d been where she’d been. Be like that brave young mother and be willing to do the work of opening up and being the body, in real community, just like God intended.