In a few short hours on Wednesday morning, I’d visited a friend battling cancer, and celebrated the long-awaited adoption of another’s son. I’d listened quietly to a friend’s painful struggles, and laughed until my sides ached in the company of others. I’d played with a new friend’s toddlers, and cried with another over parenting issues. That morning in the company of friends, I’d experienced my own version of Charles Dickens’ classic line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” Reeling from the morning, I picked up the phone. I needed a new pair of “sucky shoes!”
Years ago, my cousin and I unexpectedly stumbled on this code phrase, a reminder that we’re in this life together, no matter what, and that come what may, when we least expect it, life unfolds some truly unusual surprises.
We were both experiencing rough patches in our lives, so we met for a weekend to talk, and decided to do a little shopping. After finding a pair of shoes she liked, my cousin tried them on, took two steps, and announced through an odd pop-pop-popping sound, “Sucky shoes!”
“What?” I laughed.
“Sucky shoes,” she repeated, laughing so hard she could barely lift her foot off the floor to reveal row upon row of tiny white suction cups covering the soles. Those shoes, and their unexpectedly apt name, have become our mantra through the tough times.
We all need people who will stand with us when the going gets rough, people who will pick up and drop off our kids, listen with a quiet heart, help with the laundry and housework, bring us meals and amazing desserts, pray with us, pray for us, laugh and cry and even shop with us. But developing that kind of community takes effort, and comes with a cost. To really do life together, we need to be open, honest and vulnerable. We need to let others know when we’re hurting or lonely or struggling. We need to reach out when we least feel like it, admitting our need, and graciously accepting the help we’re given.
I’m still not very good at that. I don’t like to feel “broken,” and rarely, honestly admit how I’m feeling. “When you don’t let me in,” a friend gently admonished me, “you take away my ability to help, my chance to give. It’s not just about you. God is using your injury to grow my faith too.” I hadn’t thought about that, but she’s right. Throughout the New Testament, we’re encouraged to be a community, to:
• be devoted to one another;
• love one another deeply from the heart;
• encourage one another daily;
• serve one another;
• be kind and compassionate to one another;
• carry each other’s burdens;
• and do good to all people, especially to the family of believers.
That is true community - doing life together, being the Body, and fulfilling the law of Christ - a promise and a blessing, with a sprinkling of unexpected surprises along the way.